Conflict: From Why to What
Everyone knows conflict is part of life. There are some who tell stories of strength in relationships, marriages, churches and businesses because of conflict. But, the vast majority of stories seem to have another ending. Most people would love to hear a magic cure for conflict, but we all know that doesn't exist. Conflict even abounds throughout the pages of Scripture within people, between people, within groups and between groups. Sometimes it was handled in a godly fashion, but more often than not, it wasn't.
What if we could resolve conflict better? What if we could grow from it? What if we could learn from it? Maybe, just maybe, that starts now.
Well, good morning to everybody and also to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. We're in a series called "Conflict." For those of you all who are regular attenders, you know at the beginning of every message that I'm doing in a series I try to bring everybody back up to speed. And I think that's important because if this is your first time here and you're sort of coming in in the middle of a series, you don't want to feel left out. It's tough enough to get here if this is your first time. It's tough enough to just go to church. And then to feel like, "What's going on?"
So, I try to make sure that you feel up to speed. And then, for those of you all, it's summertime. People take breaks here and there and vacations and do the things that they do. And I want to make sure that you feel like you remember what's going on. Even for those of us who have maybe been here every single message of every part of the series, sometimes we just have tough weeks and it's good to just remember what we're doing.
So, we're in a series called "Conflict." Exactly what the series title is is what we're dealing with. Conflict. I think that whether you're here today for the first time and maybe you've never, ever, ever even stepped foot in a church, or maybe you're watching via the internet and you're trying to figure this thing out with God and all that stuff or maybe you've been walking with God for 50 years – I think all of us can agree that, first of all, we all have conflict from time to time in our lives and, secondly, we can all get better at dealing with conflict. So, what we're trying to do over this series is to equip our toolbox with some tools so that we can handle conflict better.
Because, traditionally, when we talk to people and when you look at life and look at your experience, usually we tend to look at conflict in two ways. We either don't want to deal with it and we try to run and try to escape – you know, we go in the back entrance to work when we're fighting with somebody at work or, you know, that kind of stuff. Or, we escalate it and we figure, "I'm going to win. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to get after this thing and I'm going to win and I'm going to get this thing the way it needs to be."
Neither one of those really foster relationship. What we're looking at is how do we take conflict and not look at it as a bad thing? And look at it as it's neither good nor bad, it's how I respond to it, and does this allow me a potential opportunity to really work in a relationship and transform it? And I think that's what God really wants for you and me. And I think whether you're a believer or not, everybody could agree that if we could take conflict in our lives and we could take it and learn to use it in a way to make relationships better. I think everybody would be in for that.
So, that's what we're looking at and that's what we're trying to do. And over the last few weeks, if you remember, I told you we were going to move from "why" to "what." I started off saying that many of you all just want to go, "Chip, tell me what to do. Tell me what to do. I want to know what to do."
And I said that if I do that, what you're going to do is you're going to say, "Well, why should I do that?"
So, we talked about why for a couple of weeks. We looked at 1 Corinthians 6 and how Paul told the church at Corinth what to do. But, we sort of drilled down and asked why he was telling them what to do. Then we looked at Matthew 18 and we saw what Jesus had told the Church to do and we drilled down and found the whys. So, we're moving from why to what.
Much like, you know, a lot of times when we were first getting going here in Lakewood Ranch and we were doing this thing called "First Friday." People would ask the question "why do we do this?" When we were able to say, "Well, the reason we do it is because we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ," it made the "what" we do make sense because everybody understood why.
So, when we pass out water bottles at a 5K or we do book bags or we do whatever we do, when that's our "what," the "why" is because we want to reach unchurched people by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. So, what we did is when we said, "Well, what should we do as Christians when conflict arises," we looked at the why. We looked at the fact that, hey, you know what? We're kingdom people. We're not just citizens of this world. We're citizens of heaven. And conflict really does effect the way our witness is in the church and on the outside. So, those whys sort of were foundational for the next step of, "Well, Chip, what do I do when I've got conflict in my life?"
And we're going to get there and we're going to do it in two stages and I really want you to listen to how we're going to do this. Today, I'm going to deal with some real general truths of conflict. Things that I hope that you'll take some notes. I hope you'll write them down. I hope you'll allow God to speak to you because these are some really good "whats" to take home and they apply to everything that goes on in our lives.
However, next weekend what I'm going to do is I'm going to do is I'm going to take stories of conflict. I've never seen anybody do this. I've never done this. I'm going to take stories of conflict and I'm going to put them up on the screen and read you a little bit of a story of a conflict and then I'm going to show how we should work through that conflict as Christians to transform that particular problem. And I think it's going to be fantastic. In fact, I'd bring friends, neighbors and everybody because I think anybody, whether you believe or don't believe, these are going to be things that will help all of us out.
And here's what I want to offer to you as a church: If you have something particular in your life or something that you would like to have some sort of answers on, if you'll send an email to "Grace@GraceSarasota.com" – that's our general email; you can find it on the website. If you have something that you want to hear about, send those emails in. I can't promise you that I'll get to every one of them, but I am going to read every single one of them and if there's something that I can use in the sermon, I'm going to do it. Here's my promise: If I get so much material, we'll go longer than one week next week. We'll go two weeks. Because I'm committed, as a pastor, to one thing, and that is to equipping you all to be able to walk out the life that God has called you to lead. And I believe in being practical and real and that we can get some information to help us out. So, I'm committed to that.
So, that's what we're going to do over the next two weeks or maybe three weeks. But, before I get to what, I've got one more little thing I've got to talk about, because this is sort of where the rub comes in. Let me explain how this works.
Every single one of us is raised in some sort of environment or culture. And the culture that we get raised in gives us a perspective on the world. For instance, if I was raised in Texas, I probably would have a little different perspective – because my culture would've been Texas – than someone who was raised on the beaches of California. So, their culture and perspective is a little different. I don't want to overgeneralize. I'm sure there's people that have been raised in both of those places that have turned out the same way. But, the reality is we all know that. We know that if you're born in Tennessee, you're probably going to see the world a little bit differently than if you were born in New Jersey. You're going to see the world differently if you were born in America, Russia, Korea or wherever you were born. We know that our cultures shape our perspectives.
And to sort of make it even more real here: The teams that we have in our lives shape our perspective. We all have teams. We have teams that we go to denominationally. We have teams that we go to politically. We have teams that we go to theologically. We have teams that we go to the way we eat, right? You know.
"You've got to eat this way. You've got to eat this way."
We all have these teams and those teams that we're on shape our perspective. And there's no way around that. Every single one of us has a team or multiples teams in our lives. For me – I'll just be honest here with me. Chip Bennett's team – there's more than this, but these are like three things that make up my team: I was born in Kentucky. That's just who I am. I was born in a town of 6,500 people. A very small town. And I was raised on a farm. So, some of that is my team. Some of that is my culture and that shapes my perspective in life. I have a certain education that I've gone through and done a lot of studying. That shapes who I am. My family, who my mom and dad were and my extended family and all of that, all of that shapes me to who I am.
Every single one of us have those teams. Those teams that we're on, when information comes to us that doesn't jive with whatever team we're on, we tend to dismiss it. That's called confirmation bias. We want to deal with the things that we want to deal with.
Let me give you a great example of how this works. I grew up in Kentucky. If you know anything about Kentucky, I'll tell you what goes on in Kentucky. There's basketball, there's basketball, there's basketball, there's an occasional horse race, there's basketball and there's bourbon. That's what you get in Kentucky. Okay? That's what you get. But, growing up in Kentucky, you learn about basketball and you learn about the ins and outs and everybody knows about basketball. In fact, most people don't know this, but the largest dedicated basketball arena in the United States is Rupp Arena. 23,500 people. Larger than the NBA facilities. I mean, it's a really big deal in Kentucky. So, you grow up learning about basketball.
So, what was interesting if you know this – and most of y'all probably know this whether you like sports or not – is there was a finals just played in the NBA. I'm not a big NBA watcher, but I watched a little bit of the finals because of the narrative. You had the Golden State Warriors – that's a team. Hey, now. This is church. We're supposed to be Team Jesus here. You know? And UK basketball. I'm just kidding. Just kidding. Those watching on the internet are like, "This guy's a pagan."
I've been called worse. Anyway, the reality is that with the Golden State Warriors, most people said, "This is one of the greatest teams that's ever been assembled ever in the NBA."
And some people said it was the greatest team that's ever been. But, the bottom line was: Really good team. Then you had the Cleveland Cavaliers. And there was this guy – I don't know, maybe you've heard of him or whatever. It's just sort of a guy. It's LeBron or something James. Anyway, people say LeBron is one of the greats of all time, if not the greatest of all time. And everybody argues about all of that stuff.
But, the reality was it was a great narrative: Could the team beat the individual? I mean, LeBron had a team, but it was really LeBron versus Golden State. What made it great was last year they came back from 3-1 and won the championship. So, it was like it was on. And people ask me. They're like, "What do you think?"
I said, "I think Golden State's going to win pretty handily because it's really tough for somebody – I don't care how great they are – to beat a team."
Michael Jordan scored 63 points against the Boston Celtics and lost in an NBA playoff game. So, it's hard to do that. Much to what I thought, it went sort of the way that I thought it went. But, what I had so much fun watching – because I was just an innocent bystander. I like Kentucky basketball. I just was watching it for the fun of watching it. What I enjoyed was if Golden State was your team or if Cleveland was your team, it changed your perspective on the way they called the games. And I didn't agree with anybody because I was watching it as a bystander. I was going, "No, no, no, no. You've got glasses on."
Just so you don't feel like I'm being snarky, I'm sure that I have glasses on when I watch Kentucky basketball. It's just that my glasses are right. No. I'm just kidding. I'm just playing. But, we all have that.
Now, I've said all of that to say this: When we come to following Jesus, all of us have these teams. They're deep. They're multifaceted. We have all these things that we align with. The temptation for all of us will be to try to find passages in Scripture or things in Scripture that we can pull Jesus over to our team to support what we want to believe. Jesus says to us, though, if we're really going to follow him, "You have to lay down all of your teams and you have to join my team."
And that is difficult for all of us because we all hold on to things in our lives and it's part of life. It's part of who we are. So, when we start talking about, "Hey, what do I do when conflict comes about? How do I handle this? What do I do when I'm in a fight or whatever?"
Sometimes the "what" is going to be a little bit of a recoil to us because it hits us where we're at. You know, like oftentimes when you're reading Scripture and Jesus says, "Hey, if somebody smacks you on the cheek, give them the other also."
We're like, "No, no, no. I saw Dirty Harry and that's not what he did. He introduced them to Smith & Wesson. That's not what we did. You know? I saw Rambo. Rambo didn't turn the other cheek."
So, oftentimes when we hear what Team Jesus looks like, it's different from our teams and perspectives and culture that we have, and sometimes we recoil at it. But, if we're committed to Jesus and we really want to do the Jesus thing and we really want to be like Jesus, then the "whats" of conflict are going to be a little challenging for all of us and we're going to really have to ask God to help us, by His grace and through His Spirit, to do the things that He's asked us to do.
So what I want you to do is this. These are the general truths of conflict. If you've got a sheet of paper or if you like your notepad or if you like a phone note or an iPad or whatever you have – an Android pad. Whatever you have, I would just ask sincerely, and I ask humbly, take these down because I think that you will be able to go back and look at these over the week and allow God to sort of speak to you and work with you on these particular things.
So, when conflict arises in whatever form it comes, the first "what do I do" is this. Write down "Jesus first." This is revolutionary for you and me, because when conflict arises in our life, let's be honest, all that matters is me. Right? If we're being honest. Or our team, our issue or whatever it is that's important. It's all about, "No, no, no. This is wrong. This is an injustice."
It becomes about me. It becomes about what I feel and how I feel like I've been robbed or whatever else. Or how someone's done me wrong. And if we're going to really do the "what" of Scripture, if we're going to do the "what" of what it means to follow Jesus, Jesus then has to be first. And that's why Paul told the Corinthian church. They were in a conflict. They were arguing about, "What do we eat? What do we not eat? How do we do this? How do we not do this?"
And Paul says, "Listen, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you guys are in conflict and you're arguing about all this stuff. You should be doing everything for the glory of God. You're not there to try to convince somebody that the meat that you ate is better than the meat that they ate. It's not about an issue. This is about showing God's glory in the midst of conflict."
So, the questions that we ask ourselves are fundamentally different than the questions that we would normally asks ourselves if we were just looking at the way our perspective and our culture has shaped us. The questions become, in conflict, "How do I draw attention to Jesus in this?"
And see, that's a big difference. Because, if Mindy and I have gotten into something at home or I've got into something with somebody at work or I've gotten into something with somebody or they've gotten into it with me, typically all I'm thinking about is, "Okay, how does this effect me? What can I do? How can I get away from this or how can I make sure that I solve this problem?"
When I start to say, "Okay, the first thing I want to do is how can I demonstrate Jesus in this area of conflict," that's a total revolutionary way to deal with conflict. Or, "How do I show the power of the Gospel in this? How do I allow God to be a part of this? How do I show God to my wife?"
Rather than, "How do I get my wife to do what I want her to do or to agree with me or see where she's wrong," what if I take on the tact of, "Hey, I want to make sure that she sees Jesus in this?"
And see, Ephesians 5 says that I'm supposed to love my wife like Christ loved the Church. So, it becomes different. Love God. Love people. Those are the two things that we're told to do. So, when conflict arises, it's Jesus first. And that's going to be a little bit of a shift for all of us.
The second thing that we need to do – the second "what" when conflict arises – is we need to adopt the log removal prayer life. This is really important for us to understand. Jesus is so ahead of His time in these Gospels, because psychology has learned in the last 100 years some of these things. But, listen to what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. He says, "Hypocrite. First, take the beam, the log, the telephone pole out of your eye and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother's eye."
Notice something here: Both of these are wood. They're the same type of substance. What Jesus says is, "If you can get the log out of your eye, that thing that's bugging you about your brother or sister, you'll realize it's just a toothpick. It's not that big. But, you've got a beam in your eye."
And what happens – and this is so difficult for you and me to get – is oftentimes the conflict or the tension that just drives us crazy about someone else is not them; it's us. We've got stuff in our lives that we're seeing in them that's irritating us and we've got to learn to adopt the prayer life of getting the log out of our eyes. I want to be honest with you and transparent. I want to take you back to a time in Chip Bennett's life. I was 27 years old. So, it would've been 20 years ago. I was the youngest general manager for the Land Rover franchise that they had ever had. I was like, "That's awesome. I'm 27. I'm general manager."
So, I became a general manager and it was my job to run the store and all of that stuff. And one thing that just really got under my skin – not like in a healthy way, but in a really unhealthy way – is I had some salespeople that were really good at what they did. And what they would do is they'd just come and go as they wanted to come and go. And it wasn't like a, "Hey, let's sit down and talk."
I was frustrated. I mean, it was just really getting under my skin. One day, the owner of the dealership called me in. At the time, this was a multi, multi, multi-franchised owner and I was just one of many different stores. He called me in and said, "Hey, I need to talk to you."
And I'm like, "Okay, great."
And they're like, "You're doing a good job. We just have one thing that we really would like for you to work on."
I'm like, "Sure. What do you want me to work on?"
"You're the only general manager that we have that comes and goes as they please."
Yeah. I had the same feeling that you all are having right now. Like, "Oh. No wonder I'm so mad at the other people, because I'm the one that's guilty."
So, what if we adopted in our life, "Lord, there's really a good chance that whatever's bugging me about someone is something I need to work on in my own life."
Hold on, now. What if that were all the teams? What about those teams that you're on? Theologically, politically, the way you raise children, all of that stuff. What if the things that bugged you about everybody else were things that really you were guilty of?
You say, "No, that's not me. It's everybody else that's that way, but me."
No, no, no. Psychologists have coined a phrase that's the greatest phrase I think I've heard in a long time and you're going to laugh when you hear it. I love it.
"If you spot it, you've probably got it."
Yeah. Uh huh.
You say, "Eh, I don't know if I want to really deal with this conflict stuff."
See, this is where we get to be honest. Are we Team Jesus or are we team all of the other things that we want to be doing? We need to be Team Jesus in the things that we do. It's got to be Jesus first.
Third "what" of conflict: How about learning the value of waiting? You know, 10 years ago the phrase was "I want it now." Today, the phrase is "I want it yesterday." Probably in 10 years it's going to be, "I want it 3 weeks ago."
You know? And the reality is none of us like to wait at all. But, look at the value of waiting when it comes to conflict. How about waiting until we're cool and calm? Has anybody ever done the Chip Bennett? You fly off the handle or whatever and you realize I've never, ever, ever, flown off the handle and scored a touchdown that looked like Jesus. Never. Ever. Ever. I'm sure you all probably have, but I've not. Okay?
And listen to what Solomon says. He says, "A quick tempered person acts foolishly."
So true. How about this one? This is a huge one. How about waiting until we've gathered all the facts? We don't like to do that one. Because, see, we've already got confirmation bias. We've already got perspective on the way we've been raised and the teams that we're on. So, when information comes our way that doesn't gel with what we think, we just discard it and move forward.
Listen to what Solomon says. Solomon says, "The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross examines him."
Let me ask you a question – even those that are watching via the internet and mobile app. Let me ask you a question. What about if you decided and I decided in my life that I will not criticize, I will not say anything bad, I will not create any conflict about anybody that I don't know personally and I'm in community with? Boy, we wouldn't have anything to talk about, would we? It's amazing how many people know about people that they don't even know about. They don't even know what's going on in their lives. They don't even know what they're thinking. They don't even know the information that they've got. But, we make judgments on everything all the time.
Sometimes, we need to sit back and go, "You know what? I don't have all the information to really make a good judgment on this."
Let's be humble enough to do that and to be honest. Stephen Covey tells a great story. He sold millions of books. This story's been told millions of times. It's about a man that shows up on the subway with his kids. His kids are climbing all over the subway. I mean, just climbing all over everything. A lady is sitting next to him and she's just getting more and more upset. Finally, she looks at him and she says, "Can you get control of your kids?"
He's like, "Oh, I'm sorry. You're right. I need to. I just came from the hospital because my wife passed away."
Well, man, you talk about a totally different mood on that woman now. Because, see, she knew more than she knew before she judged, got mad and got into a conflict. Maybe sometimes we need to just take a little bit of time to gather a little bit more information before we run from it, escalate it or get all hot about it.
How about this one? How about we wait until we've listened well. You know, one of the things I've learned – I do communication for a living. That's what I do. So, I have to sit down in my office and I have to figure out the way that I say things to make sure that I don't say anything that would be misconstrued by someone who's come for the very first time who doesn't know anything about God and probably has a propensity to think that all churches are sort of not good or whatever. And they're here by whatever. I've got to make sure that I don't hit a filter that sends them up. But, I've also got to make sure that I don't hit a filter of someone who's been walking with God for 50 years.
So, I'll oftentimes have Dan, Tom and other people come in here and I will speak my sermon to them before I get up here and speak to make sure that the communication that I give is good in every type of way because I care about what I do. But, let me tell you something: Most of us don't communicate that way. Most of us assume when we talk to somebody that they already know what we sort of know. Oftentimes, we say things to people and they hear what they think they hear, but they really haven't heard what we thought we said. Oftentimes, we're not hearing what the person said that said it and we fly off at the handle. James says, "Listen, we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger."
God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Let me repeat that again. Two ears and one mouth for a reason. Oftentimes, we are slow to listen, but we're fast to speak and fast to anger. Maybe sometimes when it comes to conflict you say, "What do I do?"
Maybe we need to wait a minute and cool down and calm down and get a little bit more information and make sure that we've listened well enough to know what's going on.
Fourthly what do we do? Well, we need to embrace the usefulness of gentle. One of the virtues that's gone in American culture today is gentleness. Nobody's gentle anymore. Everybody's just all spun up. And listen, it may be more crazy in society today than it's ever been or it may just be that we get more information about all the crazy stuff that's going on. But, whatever it is, it feels to most people that life is crazy. I just was in a hotel lobby. All I wanted – I mean, I'm not a very big guy. I never walk in anywhere and I intimidate anybody. It's hard, when your forehead hits their belt buckle, to be like this real big guy or whatever.
So, all I want is a toothbrush and some toothpaste, because I forgot my toothbrush and my toothpaste. Well, nobody's paying attention to little Chip because the guy down at the other part of the lobby is yelling and screaming about something that he didn't get right in his coffee or something. And I'm sitting here going, "Really?"
This is the way we morphed into society. The person who yells the most and screams the most and does the most is the one that gets attention. I would submit to you – I would love for businesses all across America, when somebody starts yelling and screaming, say, "You know what? Go back to your room. You don't even have to be here. We're going to take care of the people that are nice and courteous."
And if we did that, we could change the way people do customer service and the way life goes on, right? It's like we've forgotten what Solomon says. "A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath."
You turn on TV today and everybody's yelling at everybody. You turn on the radio and everybody's yelling at everybody. So, what happens? Well, if there's harsh words, it stirs up wrath. Well, what's going on in society? A bunch of wrath. But, let me tell you something: We can all clap and applaud like, "Yeah, that's right, man. Those people are yelling and screaming..."
But, let me tell you something. Do you know where that starts? It starts with you and me. It's so easy to look at everybody else and tell them what to do. And the church is guilty of this. We're so good at telling everybody what to do, but we have no solutions. Jesus didn't come to picket. He came to fix. As Christians, if we don't have a solution, we need to zip it. Until we can come with a solution, zip it. And what happens is we've learned, just like the culture of our day, that we're going to yell and scream over everybody else and yell and scream over everybody else. But, it's the gentle answer that turns away anger.
In fact, people that are gentle, they are looked at as weak. And let me tell you something: You can look at me as weak all you want, because I'm going to tell you right now I can tell you where my God works. He works in weakness. He doesn't work in strength. It's in my weakness that His strength and His grace and His power is perfected and manifested.
You can clap. That's good stuff. It's true. We pray as a band every Saturday night. We pray. We come and have a little devotion and we pray before we start off the weekend. And one of the things I say often is that God, through the cracks and fissures of our lives, through the brokenness of us, Your people, shines. Because, that's where He shines. And, oftentimes, we forget this. We don't think about a gentle answer. We don't think about the way that we respond.
And here's the truth: The less weight our words carry, the more volume we usually put behind them. Let me get real and raw again. This is 21-year-old Chip. That's 26 years ago. I used to argue theology. I don't know that anybody could've argued theology more than I argued theology. I'm sure there's people that did it as much, but I was all over it. I mean, I was always fighting and challenging everything, because I thought I knew everything and I didn't know nothing.
I look back now and I'm like, "Man, what an idiot I was."
I mean, I'm 47 now and I've done a lot more education since 21 and it's like I don't know nothing now. I thought I knew everything back then. I'm going to just try to be real and honest with you. I wasn't really trying to teach somebody theology. I was trying to convince myself and those that were listening to me that I knew more than I did. That's what I was really doing. My words carried no weight. That's why I got loud. Oftentimes, in our lives, we find ourselves getting loud. And if we really were honest, you don't know those issues as well as you think you do. You really haven't researched the way you should've researched. You haven't spent hours reading all the different ideas of different things. You might've read a bunch of hours of the same thing that you already believe.
But, the reality is that so often we get loud because our words don't carry weight. The masters, the ones that truly get it, don't yell and scream. They're the ones that just say, "Here it is," and people go, "Wow," because they know those words carry weight. And, oftentimes, we just get loud. The gentle way is the way to be.
In fact, don't let yelling, intimidation and control mask the fact that, oftentimes, we're not dealing with the actual situation. We're dealing with other things rather than the situation. You know, Solomon says it best. He's like, "A fool is the one who gives full vent to his anger, but it's the wise person that can hold it in check. It's the wise person that is gentle."
Fifthly, what do I do when conflict arises? I need to realize the power of focus. That the things that I see – like, when I look at somebody and I'm mad at them and there's tension in my life and the more I think about that the more negative I get and the more I don't like them. But, when I look at them and say, "This is a person that has a mom and a dad that loves them. This is a person that God cares about. This is a person that has dignity and value," my focus changes.
Because, here's the reality: What we see is what we want to see. And none of us really want to admit that, but that's the truth. You know, we used to sit around. My family, as one time, owned several assisted living facilities. My brother still does. He owns multiple ones. One of the things that you'd always hear CNAs and LPNs and ARNPs say is, "Well, sometimes the elderly just want to hear what they want to hear."
That's not the elderly. That's all of us. We want to hear what we want to hear. We want to see what we want to see. Let me show you how this is so effective to understand this truth of the way we focus is the way we can sort of see the way things go.
There was an online professor. It was a lady. She taught a class. It was the first online class she ever taught. And it didn't go very well. There were all kinds of problem with the class. So, she got her class together in person and said, "I want to go over some things and ask you some questions."
She brought in some friends that were professors as well. The first question she asked them was, "Give me some feedback about the ways that the online learning experience could be improved."
All of a sudden, everybody started saying, "This isn't right and this isn't right. You didn't have this, this and this."
They were putting all this stuff up on sticky notes all across the room. It was just getting deeper and people were getting more mad, more mad, more mad and frustrated and everything. One of the professors leaned over to this lady and was like, "Look, I would strangle some of these kids if they were my kids," because it just got really nasty.
Well, after they got done with that gripe session, she asked the second question: How could the online learning experience build on what worked best? Based on the things that happened that were good, what could we do to make that better? And, all of a sudden, the whole tenure of the room changed. Everybody started coming up with great ideas and really being passionate about helping learn and everything else. So, we went from one to another as that went on.
The professor asked, "What did you learn with the two lists?"
A young lady in the back, these were her exact words, "The first list has important feedback for the college, but it took all of our power away and made it your problem to fix. It grew into a gripe session that didn't feel very good."
Listen to this though:
"The second list reminds me that we have a lot of control over our own learning and our own experience, and it feels terrific to take some of the responsibility and power back."
See, the focus changed. The focus wasn't "it's all your problem and it's all you" because, see, when that happens, when it's all on your spouse, your boss, the person at work that you don't like or whatever issue it is, what happens is you just continue to focus and that becomes more negative and you dislike them more and more and more and more and more. But, when you turn around and say, "Hey, this is an opportunity to work here. This is an opportunity for God to do something great. This is an opportunity for me to look within. This is an opportunity for me to grow. This is an opportunity for a relationship to be changed."
All of a sudden, the focus changes everything. And Paul tells us this in 2 Corinthians. He says, "We don't give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory."
Now, look up here and listen to what Paul says:
"We do not focus on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
Can you imagine in the areas of conflict in our life if rather than looking at what we see, we decided to see it as an opportunity for eternity? As an opportunity to really see something godly happen? You say, "What do I do in conflict?"
Jesus first. He's got to be first. I've got to get the log out of my own eye, because some of this conflict may be really my own stuff. Maybe I need to wait a little bit and be a little bit more patient. Maybe I really need to be gentle in some of the things that I do. Maybe I really do need to look at what I focus at. And I believe with all of my heart if we would adopt those "whats" in our lives, we would see so much more transformation in everything. And do you know who is the one that would ultimately get transformed the most? You and me. We become something different. We become more like Jesus. And the more we become like Jesus, man, the more people are going to want what you have.
And I would challenge all of us to do what my dad did. I was probably 14 years old and I was really mad this day out in the driveway. My dad saw how mad I was. He said, "Chip, come here. Let's take a walk. The thing you're mad at, what do you think that's going to be like in a week? How about a month from now? How about five years from now? How about thirty-three years from now?"
I don't even remember what I was mad at. I don't even remember who I was mad at. All I remember was the conversation my dad had with me. And I really believe, with all of my heart, if we would say, "Jesus, I just want to look like You. I want to follow You. Lord, You've given me all the things that pertain to life and godliness. I want to cling to You. I want to live out the things that You have birthed in me. I want to look like You in everything that I do."
I think that you and I would see such a change in the areas in conflict in our life that it would be revolutionary for us and for other people around us, for our church and for our community.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the wonderful people here at Grace. I say it often, Lord, and You know that I mean it: I feel like the most fortunate person in the world to get to do what I do. I love this church and I love these people.
Lord, I pray that You would take the stumbling and bumbling of a young man that was born in Kentucky and somehow use my words for Your glory so that Your people could be equipped. Lord, I believe that we live in a world today that is ripe for people to look like Jesus. I believe we live in a world, Lord, where there's conflict that could be defused and lives could be changed and transformed.
Help us, Lord, to be those people as we draw closer to You and trust in Your grace and Your Spirit to lead us in all that we do. And Lord, lastly, I pray for every father that's in here today. I pray that they would have a great day. I pray that they would know that they are loved. And Lord, I pray that they would walk out of here and just, for the rest of the day, it'd be a great day for them.
Lord, as we leave here today, watch over us and protect us, lead and guide us. Bring us back safety to when we meet again and help us to bring a few people along with us and help us, Lord, to continue to be a church that's doing our best to be Your presence in Lakewood Ranch for Your glory. In Jesus' name we pray, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Happy Father's Day.
Everyone knows conflict is part of life. There are some who tell stories of strength in relationships, marriages, churches and businesses because of conflict. But, the vast majority of stories seem to have another ending. Most people would love to hear a magic cure for conflict, but we all know that doesn't exist. Conflict even abounds throughout the pages of Scripture within people, between people, within groups and between groups. Sometimes it was handled in a godly fashion, but more often than not, it wasn't.
What if we could resolve conflict better? What if we could grow from it? What if we could learn from it? Maybe, just maybe, that starts now.
Well, good morning to everybody and, also, good morning to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. So glad that you've tuned in to watch and so glad that you're here at 10:15 for this sermon. You probably were wondering, "Where's Chip at? What's he doing on video?"
I'm actually in Chicago. Mindy and I took Jack, my son, to Chicago. He wanted to go there for his birthday. So, we've been up there running around Chicago on a whirlwind tour. Right now, we probably are in a cab headed to the airport, which is really short of strange. So, while I'm here speaking, I'm really there. I'm doing two things at one time. What's really awesome is I have recorded a video for you at 10:15 that also is going to be a video that goes out into the mobile app and internet. So, this is really mind-blowing stuff. So, we probably just need to stop and pray for a moment and ask the Lord to bless this service. Would you bow with me?
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for letting us gather here. I just pray that even though this is a little bit different than we normally do church – via a video presentation – I pray, Lord, that You would really speak to all of us this weekend. I pray, Lord, that we'd be able to move past the video and realize that I've prayed and many people have prayed specifically for this weekend and that You would speak to all of us. So, Lord, I pray that we would all commit to really listening to Your voice so that we can walk out of here differently than when we came in. Lord, we thank You for it in Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."
We're dealing with this issue of conflict. It's a real issue for all of us. In fact, every one of us knows, at some level in our lives, we always have conflict. Whether it's at our jobs, whether it's with siblings, whether it's with family, whether it's in marriages, we've got conflict. What we're trying to do – and it's what I try to do every time I speak and every time I do a series – is I want to help you and help us as a church get the tools that we need to be equipped so that we can live the life God wants us to live. Being able to handle conflict is huge.
So, even if you're here and this is your first time back in church for a long time or maybe this is your first time in church or maybe you've been a couple of times and you're not quite sure about the God thing or you're not quite sure about the Jesus thing, or even if you've been a Christian for a long time, this is stuff that is practical, real world and it's good for all of us. So, what we're doing is we're spending five weeks talking about conflict and trying to figure out how we can become better at this particular issue of life.
As a general rule, most people don't like conflict. They like to run from it. They like to avoid it. They want to just get away from it. But, there are some that like to win at conflict. Neither one of those are good options, but the ones that like to win remind me of a story. There was a chicken farmer and his best friend was a cow farmer. That's what they did. Their land sort of joined together. One did chickens and one did cows. So, the chicken farmer had a ritual every morning. He would go out to all of his chickens, but he had this one prize chicken that he loved. Because, that chicken, believe it or not, would lay one egg every morning.
So, that was the guy's breakfast. He'd go out and get the egg. He'd go back and cook the egg. He'd eat the egg and then off he'd go for his day. Every single day of every single week, that's what he did. Well, one day he got up and he went out to go see his prize chicken to get that egg. He realized that the prize chicken wasn't in the coop. So, he starts looking around and he's walking around and he looks over into his buddy's cow pasture and he sees his chicken. So, he starts briskly walking towards the chicken because he wants to get the chicken back. But, he also wants to get the egg.
So, he goes out there and he realizes, as he's walking out there, he can see from a distance, that the chicken has laid an egg in the cow pasture. But, what he didn't notice – and he notices at that particular moment – is that his buddy, who does the cow stuff, is on his way out to the chicken and he picks up the egg from the ground. Well, the chicken farmer is like, "Wait! Hey, buddy, buddy, buddy. That's my chicken and that's my egg."
His friend's like, "Hey, listen, man. That may very well be your chicken, but this is my egg."
He's like, "What do you mean it's your egg? It's my egg; it's my chicken."
He's like, "No. It may be your chicken, but your chicken laid the egg on my property. Therefore, it's my egg."
The guy says, "No, no, no. I can't believe we're doing this. We're actually going to have some conflict. There's a way that we're going to have to handle this."
The cow farmer says, "Really? Well, how are we going to handle this?"
"Well, we're going to do it the way my family's always done it for hundreds of years. We have a way in which we handle conflict."
The cow farmer said, "Okay, great. Lay it on me. How are we going to handle this conflict?”
He says, "Well, here's what we're going to do. You're going to go back to your house and you're going to get a pair of boots. I'm going to go back to my house and I'm going to get a pair of boots. Then we're going to come back here to this exact same spot. What I'm going to do is I'm going to kick you as hard as I can in the shin. What you're going to do is you're going to fall on the ground, because it's going to hurt. You're going to writhe around, you're going to sweat a little bit, it's going to hurt. What I'm going to do is I'm going to put on my stopwatch, when I kick you, how long it takes for you to get through the pain, work through the pain, to where you can stand back up. When you can do that, I will stop the stopwatch. We'll write down however long that was. Then, what you're going to do is you're going to kick me in the shin as hard as you can. I'm going to fall on the ground. I'm going to writhe around in pain. I'm going to break out in a cold sweat and all that good stuff. You're going to time me. Then, when I get back up and I've worked through the pain, you're going to write down how long it took me to work through that pain.
"Here's the deal: The one who can get up the fastest, the one who can work through the pain the quickest, they're the one that's going to win the egg."
The cow farmer says, "Alright. I'm in, man. I'm in. You want to do that? That's fine. If you want your egg that bad, let's do that. We're both men. We're grown men. We're both tough men. We're both farmers. Let's do it."
So, they go back to their houses and they get their boots. Now, the chicken farmer had done this before. So, he had him a pair of prize boots. It was a pair of boots with a big steel toe on the front. I mean, he was going to inflict some damage on this boy. So, they go out and mean. The chicken farmer, he rears back and he kicks that cow farmer. I mean, he just tears his shin up.
The cow farmer falls on the ground. He writhes around. He's got some choice words that you can't say in church and all that good stuff. He's writhing around. He's breaking out in a cold sweat and all of that stuff. The guy's timing it. Finally, he gets up. It's been a little over 20 minutes. The cow farmer says, "Well, how long did it take?"
"A little over 20 minutes."
The cow farmer says, "Alright. Give me the stopwatch. I'm going to kick you."
The chicken farmer says, "That's alright, man. You can have the egg."
We don't want to be like that. We're not trying to win conflict. What we're trying to do is we are trying to work on dealing with conflict in our life in a way that is pleasing to God and that is biblical and Scriptural.
So, what we've been doing is the first week, which was two weeks ago, we dealt with the big idea. We looked at some big idea concepts. Then, last week and this week, what we decided to do is we're going to do a deep dive into some passages of Scripture and really dig into them and learn the "whys." What I mean by that is this: Most people, when you talk about conflict, what they ask you is this: What should I do? What should I do with my wife? What should I do with my husband? What should I do with my boss?
We want to get there. We want to get to the "whats." But, to understand what to do, we have to understand why we are doing what we're doing. Because, typically, when you tell somebody what to do, their first response is, "Well, why should I do that?"
That's an appropriate response. It's much like what we do here at church when we talk about our vision. We say that we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. That is our "why." So, when someone says, "What do we do?"
Well, we do First Friday as something. That's a what. And when somebody says, "We'll, why do we do First Friday?"
We do it because we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. So, we talk about conflict and we say, "What do we do?"
We're going to spend the next two weeks on practical, real issues. I mean, it's going to get real and raw about what we do. But, before we do that, we need to make sure that we understand why. So, last week, we looked at what Paul said to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6. This weekend, we're going to look at some red letters in Scripture. We're going to look at what Jesus said about conflict. So, in Matthew 18, Jesus has talked to His disciples and He's told them that offenses are going to happen. I mean, there's going to be people that get offended. He says, "When you offend a little one, it's a really big issue. It's not a good thing, because you don't want to offend little ones."
And because Jesus knows that those offenses are going to happen and that people are going to sin against each other, we're going to start in Matthew 18:15 and we're going to look at what Jesus says. Then what we're going to do is, at the end, we're going to look at the underlying conflict truths of why Jesus told them what to do when conflict strikes. So, in Matthew 18:15-21, here's what we have.
He says, "'If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.’"
Now, there's a lot of things going on here and I want to make sure that all of us understand the dynamics here. First of all, he says, "If your brother sins against you." This is not somebody that's outside of the Church. This is not somebody that's at your work that doesn't call themselves a Christian. This is not any of that at all. The way we handle that's completely different. This is a brother. This is someone that calls on the name of God. This is someone that you know. This is someone that you have a community with. This is someone that you have a relationship with. He says, "If you brother sins against you," – that's you. The "you" in the original language is singular. So, this is a sin against you and me. So, it's a personal thing.
He says, "'If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.’"
Now, the word "rebuke" – and I've added, here, some parentheses – is "to deal with or to expose." It's a real word. It's not just, "Hey, talk about it." It's a word that really has some bite to it. He says, "What I want you to do is if your brother – someone that you have a relationship with, not someone on the outside of the church – sins against you, what I want you to do is I want you to rebuke them. I want you to deal with and expose what they've done."
And then Jesus says, "And do it in private."
Now, let's back up here because there's a lot of stuff going on in just this one verse of Scripture. First of all, this is a communal passage of Scripture. This is someone that you know. Someone that knows you. You're in a relationship with them and they've done something that's big enough to be called a sin. It's not just a personality thing. It's not just a little miscommunication. This is a sin. Jesus says, "When that happens in the community, we are to go and we are to rebuke them in private. Now, let's be honest. Most of us, when we have someone that's done us wrong or when they've sinned against us, let's be honest, what do we do? We go and tell about four other people – or nine people. We go talk about it to other people. We get them on our side. We tell them, "Hey, this person did this to me."
That is not what Jesus told us to do when we're dealing with conflict. In fact, not only did He tell you to do it in private, but there's a lot of assumptions here that Jesus is making and we're having to understand in this passage. Jesus, this is the way He sees the world and the Church. That you and me, if we are brothers, if we're followers of God, not only should we expect to go to someone when they have done us wrong – and oftentimes, if we're honest, we like to go another way and we don't want to deal with it.
No. He says, "What I want you to do is I want you to go to them, I want you to rebuke it."
But, the opposite is true too. If we've signed up for the Jesus thing, if we've signed up to follow Jesus, then we've put ourselves in a position that when we do something wrong to someone else, they have every right to come to us and tell us that we've done wrong. Which means you can't just do anything you want to do if you decide to follow Jesus, that Jesus has said, "Hey, I want my community to work together and I want this thing to be holistic and I want this thing to work. When there's conflict, I want there to be transformation. I want there to be growth. But, I want you to do it a specific way. If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him. Expose it and deal with it in private."
And then listen to what He says. He says, "'If he listens to you, you've won your brother.'"
Which means you could lose your brother. Which means that there could really be a relationship tension to where it was bad. He says, "The goal here is to transform this conflict. Listen, when somebody sins against you, you need to go to them. You can't run. You can't hide. You can't go tell 15 people. You go to them in private and, if they will listen to you – and listening to you doesn't mean they listen to you. Listening to you means that they agree that what they did to you was wrong."
He says, "You have won your brother."
Which shows that, for Jesus, conflict is not something that we just keep going on and on. It's an opportunity for reconciliation. It's an opportunity for restoration. It's an opportunity for transformation. But, Jesus is a realist. He understands that just because you go to your brother when they've sinned and just because they love God and just because they raise their hands in church and just because they say that they're Christians and all of those good things, He understands that they may not agree. They may decide, "I don't like you coming to me. I don't want to hear a word that you say. I know that maybe I did something wrong, but I'm not going to listen to you."
So, Jesus says, "Well, here's the next step."
He says, "'But if he wont' listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses, every fact may be established.'"
What He says here is, "Listen, if he won't listen, if there's not an agreement, if there's not reconciliation, if you have not won your brother, then take one or two other people..." – and I love this here. He doesn't that they have to be leaders. He doesn't say that they have to be spiritual giants. They've just got to be in the community. Get a couple of other people and go. Then He quotes out of the Old Testament this idea that everything can be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. And what He's saying is, "Listen, if this brother has not listened to what you've said and he's sinned against you and you take one or two others, what you're doing is you're putting together this collection of work that's showing that this guy or woman who's done wrong is, in fact, wrong."
The obvious hope here is that you brother will listen. That's the hope. But, Jesus lives in the real world. Here's what He says:
"If he doesn't pay attention to them..." – "church" here, in the original language, is singular, not plural. You would expect it to be plural. It's singular, which shows that the church has got a unity to this idea of transformation in conflict. That we do things the way Jesus wants us to do it.
He says, "Tell it to the church."
This is a real foreign deal for most of us, this idea of, "Hey, you know, I did somebody wrong. Could we just move over or whatever? I'm not going to really say anything. They're not going to say anything. We'll just sort of let it go or whatever."
It doesn't work that way. Jesus says, "My followers, that's not the way it works."
When there's sin that's gone on and there's conflict that's gone on and there are problems that've gone on, then what we need to do is we need to deal with it in the right way. We go in private. If they don't listen in private, we take one or two others. If they don't, then we bring it to the church. That's the local assembly. That would mean – and this is sort of radical. These are the passages of Scripture where you start asking the question, "Am I really in on this thing? Am I really a follower of Jesus? Is this really the way I want to do it?"
Because, what we're saying is that when we say, "Hey, I'm in for the Jesus thing," then we're signing up that when we do something wrong to someone else, we are going to allow that to be reconciled and restored and transformed. And there's a process. If we just get a little hard headed or a little stubborn, Jesus says, "We're going to take one or two. If not, take it to the church."
And I doubt very seriously that many people would want to be brought in front of the church. In fact, I would tell you that not many churches do this. But, this is the way Jesus says we ought to handle this stuff. Jesus is also a realist. He says, "If he doesn't pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you."
Now, we need to really pause here for a second. Notice here that He doesn't say that he is a tax collector or a Gentile. He says, "Let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector."
But, it's not to the church, it's to you; the one that was offended. Now there is a difference in relationship. This person is no longer a brother. This person is like a Gentile and a tax collector, which means they're on the outside of the community of faith. They're no longer living like a brother. They've decided to live like those people who need missionary work. The tax collectors and the Gentiles were the people that Jesus went to and He tried to restore because they were on the outside. They were not the people of God. He didn't push them away. He didn't hate them or any stuff like that. He loved them, but He knew the difference between those who were Gentile and tax collectors and those that were His followers.
And Jesus says, "Listen, when we're dealing with this conflict thing and we've done something against someone and we're obstinate and we're not going to deal with it and we push it away and one or two others come along and we push it away and then the church comes along and we push it away, there is a break in the relationship and it takes on a different form. They become like a Gentile and a tax collector."
Now, let's continue on here, because all of this goes together. And we're going to not understand what Jesus is saying until we understand the "why." But, we've got to get through the "whats" so that then we can look and sort of boil it down and get to the "whys."
Look at what Jesus says next. He says, "Truly, I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven."
This is powerful. I grew up in a tradition that didn't pay attention to context in Scripture. And I'm not being negative about the tradition I grew up in. There's a lot of things that I'm so thankful about growing up in the Pentecostal church. But, one of the things that we like to do is pull a lot of passages out of their contact. Jesus is talking about sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, conflict, and transformation. And what we would do is we would use this passage and we would run around the church praying against the devil. That's what we would do. It would be, "We're binding the devil. We're loosing the devil. We're loosing angels and binding demons."
I mean, it was crazy. One day I was in church. I always felt like there were 19 devils behind every chair and everybody's like, "Get that devil. Go get him. Bind him. Loose him."
And I started saying to myself, "Man, we've just spent the last hour in prayer and we haven't even talked to God. All we've done is talk to the devil the whole time."
That's not what Jesus is talking about here. He's saying – and this is profound – that when somebody refuses to reconcile, they are bound in their sin. And what the church is proclaiming about their sin has already been proclaimed in heaven that they're bound in their sin. And when the church looses sin, they're merely saying what's already happened in heaven; that the sin has been loosed. This is powerful. This shows you how important the local church is, because we're involved as the heavenly associate or the heavenly representative of sin and forgiveness. This is huge. Jesus goes on to say – this is a powerful passage. This is linking all up together.
"Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven."
Now, I'm going to be honest. This is a passage of Scripture that usually is yanked out of context in every way. And we've all had it. We've all gotten together in a prayer meeting and people say, "You know, we've got two or three people here. If we just agree on this, God's going to do it."
And then we agree and we pray and it doesn't happen. And everybody goes, "Well, what happened?"
Well, Jesus isn't talking about praying about just anything you want to pray about. He's talking about sin and forgiveness. He says, "If two of you..." – it takes two to tango. It takes two to have a conflict. It takes two to have one sin against the other. He says, "If you can agree about any matter..."
Interesting word here. The original word for "matter" is the same word that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 6 that we talked about last week for a legal dispute. "Pragma." It's a Greek word. He says, "If two of you can agree on this matter of dispute that you're praying about..."
In other words, if you can come to agreement that there's been something done wrong, He says, "I will always answer that prayer." That's what that passage is saying. It's all contextual. He goes on to say this:
"For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
If you've been in church long enough at any time, you've probably heard somebody get up and say, "Hey, it's so great to see everybody this morning. As we know, where two or three are gathered together, He's here with us."
I don't mean to bust any bubbles. I'm not trying to step on anybody's toes. But, you don't need two or three people to have Jesus in your life. He said He would never leave you or forsake you. We don't need two or three people to gather together for Jesus to be there. But, we do need two or three people to gather when there's been a conflict. When they come together and they're there gathered in His name – and His name isn't just J-E-S-U-S, like, you know, we pray in Jesus' name. Everybody thinks we've got to add Jesus on the back of the prayer and we get really cool about that. It depends on what church you grew up in. It's like the more emphatic you get, the more you pray that prayer. You know? In Jesus' name.
That's not what Jesus' name is. It's not adding J-E-S-U-S on the end of a prayer. A person's name is their character. Jesus says, "Hey, listen. If two or three are gather in my name – in other words, they've come together for a spirit of unity, for the right reasons because they've been praying about this, they've agreed about it, they've understood the seriousness and consequences of bound sin and loose sin, I'm there among them."
In case you're just wondering, "How does all of that flow together? Does that really all flow together with this idea of sin and forgiveness?"
Well, look what the Apostle Peter asks Jesus right after He says these words. He says, "Then Peter approached him and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?'"
See, Peter understands what's going on here. He understands, man, this is a serious deal. Because, people do sin against each other and I sin against each other. He's telling me how to deal with this stuff and it's pretty big stuff. It's binding and loosing, getting together, agreeing, praying and being willing to agree and all of that stuff. And Peter says, "Look, here's the deal. I know that some people are like habitual offenders. They're line-steppers. They do this same thing over and over again. All I want to know is – I love this idea of forgiving; I love this idea of conflict resolution. But, what I really want to know is when can I get the back? Right? Is it seven times? That's sounds pretty good, right? Seven times."
And then Jesus goes on and He tells a story. He says, "Hey, listen. There was this guy that had this big debt. He went before the king and he could never pay the debt. He told the king, 'I can't pay the debt,' and the king said, 'You know what? I'm going to forgive you of your debt.'"
And the guy was like, "You've got to be kidding me. Unbelievable."
So, he leaves the presence of the king and then he goes and sees somebody that owes him money; that has a debt to him. And what does he do? He says, "I want my money. I want you to give me what's mine."
Well, the king hears about this and he throws that guy in prison. He says, "Listen: You didn't extent the same grace and mercy to that person as I extended to you."
And what Jesus is saying to all of us is this: This is the way the Church lives. We live in this community that is going to be forgiving, loving, caring and reaching out to people. But, Jesus has also told us that there's issues where it doesn't work. Then that person's relationship changes. Why does He say what He says? That's the "what." The question is, "What's the 'why?'"
What I've done for this series is I'm calling these the underlying conflict truths. Well, what are the "whys" for what Jesus is saying to do? I know what you're thinking right now. I do. I'm pretty good at this thing. What you're thinking is, "Man, that's a pretty profound Scripture. There's a lot of stuff in there. I had no idea those passages all worked together."
The second thing that you're thinking right now is, "Man, I totally forgot this was a video."
And you did. Just admit it right now. We're doing pretty good. So, continue here. Let's lean in and look at these underlying conflict truths. Here's what they are. Write these down if you would if you've got a sheet of paper. This is a great time to take notes. I'm not telling you you have to do that. But, I think these would be great things for you to think about during the week.
First of all: Conflict resolution – this is what Jesus knows. This is the "why" for what Jesus says to do. Conflict resolution is restorative in nature and happens in community. When we have conflict, it's an awesome opportunity for you and me to restore relationship. Whether we're the one that did it or we're the one that received it, it's an awesome opportunity for us to restore. But, here's the big one. Listen to me. This is so important. It happens in community. Here's what we do. It's terrible. We go out into the world with people that we have no community with and we tell them all the things that they've done wrong. That is not what Jesus is saying in these passages of Scripture. It's not His "why." Where we're able to rebuke, expose and deal with are people that are our brothers and sisters. People that we have community with.
I see so many people get on Facebook and they want to rebuke preachers that are on TV and say you're terrible and no good. They don't know these people. And when they do that, they think they're being God's great, big servant and telling everybody what the truth is. In fact, what you're doing is you're making the people in the world just not want to be in church anymore at all because they say, "All you guys do is point fingers at people that you don't even know."
And so often, that's what I hear from people that are outside of the church. Like, "People judge me. They don't know me. They don't know what I've gone through. They don't know why I'm the way I am. They don't know the way I feel."
And that's why Jesus says here, "If your brother sins against you."
That'd be a brother or sister. If it's someone that you know, someone that you're in relationship with. So, one of the "whys" of conflict truths is this: We're to restore, but it's communal in nature. It's who we are in community with. So, before you go and rebuke somebody, before you go jump on somebody that maybe did something against you or something that you see in them, you need to ask this question: Do I have relationship with that person?
Because, if you don't, I'm going to tell you right now that they're not going to listen to you. People who don't know you are not going to listen to you rebuke them. So, the underlying themes here are so important for us to get.
The second one is: Practical holiness for a community member is not optional. When you and I said, "Hey, I want to do the Jesus thing. I'm in. I really believe He's who He is. I'm in," practical holiness no longer became an option for you and me. Because now, the community becomes so important and the witness of the community becomes so important, which means that if we're doing something wrong, we need to be rebuked. Because, otherwise, if it's just left undone, what it does is it damages the witness of the community in the world.
And this is tough for all of us because most of us are like, "Man, I want to be an individual. Don't get in my grill. Don't do this."
But, if you're in a church that's healthy, you should have people in your life telling you at certain times the things that they think would help you become better. Now, sometimes people do it in a wrong way, and we can deal with that stuff and that's wrong. But, people who care about you and want to help you and want you to grow, practical holiness is not an option for you and me. Because, Jesus says, "If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private."
He totally believes that if you're into the Jesus community, you're going to have people that come into your life and tell you the things that you've done wrong. And they're doing it to restore you and they're doing it so that the community doesn't lose its witness in the world. And I'm going to tell you right now: Everything that Jesus talked about, everything He prayed about, there's only one time that He said what would be the real reason people would believe in Him, and it's when He was praying for you and me in John 17. His high priestly prayer. He said it in John 17:21 and He said it in John 17:23.
He says, "Father, let them be one as we are one, so that the world may believe."
What destroys our witness is strife and garbage and railing against each other and the community turning against each other and having all kinds of issues with one another, we grieve the Holy Spirit when we do that. What we do is we ruin our witness in the world.
Listen to this. This is really heavy stuff. This is something that we need to really ponder, but this is the truth: The witness of the community takes precedence over individualism. It's not about you and me anymore. It's about Jesus. It's about representing who He is to the world. And when there's conflict, it needs to be dealt with. The reason it needs to be dealt with is because Jesus wants you and me to be the best representation of Him that we possibly can be as individuals and as a group. The only way for us to do that is for us to be concerned enough about one another to actually go and tell someone when they've done it wrong.
It's great the way He says it. He says, "Do it in private." See, he's not even wanting to get that out in the community so other people can think about it. He's waiting us to go in private and just get it handled and move on, because the witness of the community is at stake.
Third truth: Relationship boundaries are not only healthy, but they're needed at certain times. Notice what Jesus says here. He says, "Let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you."
In other words, what Jesus is saying is that the relationship has changed. There's a boundary now. But, the boundary's not to separate. The boundary's not to hurt. They boundary's there for restoration. Now this person is like a tax collector and like a Gentile to you. So now, they're the purpose of prayer. Now, they're the purpose of outreach. Now, they're the purpose of mission. But, they're not a brother. And so often in our lives, we've got to understand that healthy boundaries are good and sometimes they're simply needed. We're going to talk about that over the next couple of weeks. Because, sometimes, some of the conflicts that we get in, when there is no restoration and it's not possible, sometimes we really have to create a boundary and move on in our life.
We pray for them and we love them. If there's an opportunity that works, that's great. But, sometimes we have to draw a boundary. And that's why Jesus says they're going to be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.
The fourth thing is that conflict transformation centers around willingness and prayer. Oftentimes, when we really look at our lives, if we're being honest, we don't pray like we should. And because we don't pray like we should, we're not as willing as we should. But, Jesus says here very simply, "Listen, if two of you can agree – that's being willing – then pray. Pray about it and I'll answer that. I'll get in the midst of any type of garbage that's gone on between two believers. If they're willing to agree that there's been a problem, I'll get in there and I'll answer that. Because, here's the deal: If you're gathered in my name, if you're gathered under my name and in my character because you want to see restoration and you want to see unity, I will be there with you."
The last point – and this is so profound. It's incredibly profound. The local church is a heavenly representative. We represent heaven in the world that we live in. Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven."
I want you to listen to me and hear the heart of your pastor at this moment. The local church is charged by God to be the place that looses people from their sin and binds the sin on the people in the community that don't want to have conflict resolution. We've turned that around. We've bound sin on everybody out there and we've just acted as if nothing's going on him here and we've not dealt with the things that we need to do.
Can you imagine, for a minute, if the local church really saw itself as a heavenly representative? Can you imagine if we saw within our church and within us as individuals that we could go unleash the loosing power of the Gospel in people's lives by being people of transformation? And that when we did bind someone in their sin, it would be for the reason of the witness of the community, not to get somebody back. Can you imagine what that would look like? That's what I want us to be. That's why I felt so much in my heart that I needed to do this series. Because, I believe we live in world where the opportunity for us to handle conflict might be the best time what we could've ever lived in the history of the world. We have such an awesome, awesome opportunity.
I want to ask you to join with me to being that church that really wants to be Jesus people. That wants to be red-letter people when we deal with conflict. I want you to join me for the next two weeks as we look at what we need to do in specific situations so that we can become the people that God's called us to be.
Would you pray with me? Let's bow our heads.
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray right now in Jesus' name for every single person here in this service. Lord, I pray for those that might have just stumbled in here or might have been away from You for a long time or might be trying to figure out what that looks like. Lord, I pray that what they would hear is Your Gospel. That You love people and that You want them to come home.
Lord, I pray that they would see not judgment here, but love. I pray, Lord, that if they're thinking that maybe, just maybe, they've tried life their way but now they want to try it Your way, Lord, I pray that they would make that decision. And Lord, if they make that decision, I pray that they'd find somebody with a name badge on or a Grace shirt and go tell them after service, "I've made a decision. I really want to do the Jesus thing."
But Lord, for the rest of us here, for those of us that are at different places in our journey, I pray, Lord Jesus, that You would really download the truths of this message in our lives so that we can walk in all of the abundance and victory that You have for us. So Lord, I pray that as we leave here, that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us. I pray, Lord Jesus, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again for Your glory. And I pray, Lord, that we would be bold enough to reach out and maybe bring a friend or a family member next time we come. Lord, we just love You, we praise You, we honor You for everything that You're doing in our lives and in the life of this church.
In Jesus name we pray, and everybody said, "amen." God bless everybody. See you soon.
Everyone knows conflict is part of life. There are some who tell stories of strength in relationships, marriages, churches and businesses because of conflict. But, the vast majority of stories seem to have another ending. Most people would love to hear a magic cure for conflict, but we all know that doesn't exist. Conflict even abounds throughout the pages of Scripture within people, between people, within groups and between groups. Sometimes it was handled in a godly fashion, but more often than not, it wasn't.
What if we could resolve conflict better? What if we could grow from it? What if we could learn from it? Maybe, just maybe, that starts now.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We're in a five-week series called "Conflict." If this is your first time here or maybe you missed last weekend because of Memorial Day, there's not a whole lot to bring you up to speed. We're just dealing with good old-fashioned conflict. I think we can all use some tools for our toolbox to be able to be equipped to handle it better. As Christians, we're not called just to run from it or to escalate it; we're called to be people that transform conflict in our lives and allowing God to let the Gospel really make a difference.
So, we want to do that. We don't want to be like the lady that went to the doctor's office and the doctor look at her and said, "Ma'am, I've got some bad news. You've got some life-threatening rabies."
And she was like, "Oh, okay," and she starts writing down a list. He says, "Are you making out your will?"
She says, "Oh, Lord no. I'm making a list here of people I want to bite."
We don't want to be like that, okay? But, we're dealing with this idea of conflict. What we're going to do, because I know the church and I know you, you're probably going, "Great, just tell me what to do. Tell me what to do. Tell me what to do."
Listen. Here's the reality: If I came out of the gates telling you what to do, many of you'd go, "Well, why would I do that? Why would I do that?"
Because, as Christians, we're not called to look like the world. We're called to do it the way Jesus wants us to do it. Sometimes, that's a lot different than the way we normally do it just in the way we normally do conflict. So, what I'm going to do is I'm going to spend two weeks and we're going to really do some deep dives in two particular passages that deal with conflict in the church. What we're going to try to do is figure out what are the underlying truths that are really pushing the admonitions that we're seeing here in Scripture so those can be our "why."
Because, we're not going to do what we're supposed to do unless we understand why we're doing it. You know, people say, "What are we doing around here?"
Well, we do First Friday.
"Well, why do we do First Friday?"
We do First Friday because we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. The "why" makes sense of the "what." And we want to know what to do in conflict. We want to know what happens when we're fighting and have got problems at work and estranged relationships with parents and all this stuff. Do we draw boundaries? What do we do? All of these things. We're going to answer those things. But, before we do that, we're going to go get some really good, biblical, foundational truths. We're going to look at a passage that Paul wrote this weekend. Next weekend, we're going to look at a passage that Jesus spoke. Then we're going to spend two weeks after that dealing with real, practical issues on how to handle conflict in our lives. But, until we get to the "what," we need to understand the "why."
So, here's what we're going to do. We're going to take a real deep dive in a passage today that comes out of 1 Corinthians. It was funny. Last night, somebody said to me, "I've read the Bible over and over again. I never knew that passage was in there."
So, some of you may have that moment where you go, "I didn't know that was in here."
I promise you it's in there. It's like, what was it, Prego, the spaghetti sauce? "It's in there."
The reality is this, though: When we come to Scripture – and I get this a lot, more as a professor than a pastor, but I get it sometimes as a pastor as well – people will say, "Why are there so many problems with Scripture? How come everybody reads it differently? Isn't it just clear?"
The answer is yes. There are some passages of Scripture that are very clear. No question about it. But, some of them are really difficult to understand. Like when you read 1 Corinthians and it talks about women wearing head coverings, most of you women in here are like, "I ain't wearing no head covering," and there's people that would go, "Well, that's what the Bible says! So, why don't you put it on your head?"
And you're going, "I'm not sure that's what the Bible says," and people fight about this stuff. The question is: How do we understand that? Well, first of all, we've got to be honest. The Bible is an ancient book. If I were to come to you and say, "Hey, let's go read Hesiod or let's read Homer. How about we read the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides? How about we read Plato's Republic?"
You would say, "Well, can you give me some background and can you help me read this? Because, it's not going to make sense the way I originally read it."
Well, oftentimes, there are passages in Scripture that we ought to do work. Ultimately, I think that's why we come to church here. That's why we come and do what we do because we know that we're going to look at the Bible and we're going to study it and we're going to try to make sense out of it. But, when we go to the Bible, one of the things that we have to understand is there really is an interpretive maze going on.
One of the struggles we have as a church – and I'm going to be honest with you, and you see it everywhere – is we don't know, when we read Scripture, if it's prescriptive or if it's descriptive. What I mean by that is, what you're reading in Scripture, is that for everybody at every time to do it that way or is it describing something that's going on at a particular time in a particular place and then what we've got to do is we've got to figure out what are the underlying truths that are going on there. And then those become the things that we want to do at every time and in every place.
For instance, I get this all the time. I get people that come up and go, "Man, I just wish we were like Acts 2, man. I wish we were like the New Testament Church, man. Everybody was selling everything and they were sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya. Everybody's breaking bread. Man, it was awesome. It doesn't look like that anymore. How come?"
And I start asking the question, "Okay, so do you think everybody has to sell their property?"
And they're like, "Well, yeah. But, I want to sing Kumbaya, though."
I'm like, "Well, let me ask you a question. Is that prescriptive or is that descriptive? Is that a descriptive part of the church or is that prescriptive?"
In fact, I would go even further to say that if you want to read Luke correctly, you need to start off in Luke 1 where Jesus talks about what's going to happen on the day of Pentecost. Which, by the way, this is Pentecost Sunday, for those of you all who look at the Liturgical calendars. Jesus says to them, "When the Spirit of God comes upon you, you're going to be my witnesses and you're going to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world."
Well, if you're reading Acts through the vein of that the Church is supposed to go and you read the end of Acts and the Word of God is spreading even though Paul's in prison, you might read Acts 2 a little differently. They weren't supposed to sit around and sing Kumbaya. They were supposed to go into the world and be a witness. So, what did God do? He raised up Saul to scatter the Church so that they would go into the world and do what God had called them to do.
See, it becomes different when you read that way. Yes, the Bible can be understood and it can be clear, but there's an interpretive maze. So, when we come to an epistle – which we're going to read here in a minute; a passage of Scripture out of 1 Corinthians 6 – we've got to start asking some real questions. Who was the original audience? Do we know? Because, what they heard is probably different than what we would naturally hear. In fact, I say this all the time, but I'm not sure we get this. The Bible was not written to you and me. It was written for you and me, but it wasn't written to you and me.
When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he wasn't thinking about Chip Bennett in 2017. He was thinking about a church in Corinth that had some issues going on. Who was that original audience? What was the situation going on? Was there a particular situation that we can sort of understand? What were the cultural things that were going on? Are the things that are cultural that might be more descriptive of the church and they're not prescriptive?
Then, when we do all that work, what are the truths that we can extract from that passage of Scripture? What are the underlying truths so that we can apply those things to our life? And that's just working with any epistle, whether you're reading 1 John, something Paul wrote or something Peter wrote. Whatever you're reading, those are just things that we have to do to understand what's going on with the Bible. However, we talk about Paul and Paul's got two really unique features about the way he writes that if we don't understand those keys, we might not interpret Paul in the correct way.
First of all – and this is huge. Because, here in the West, this is the way we do it, right? You say, "I'm going to become something."
Right? I'm going to become a lawyer. I'm going to become a preacher. I'm going to become a swimmer. I'm going to become a golfer. Okay, what we have to do then is we have to do the things to become whatever it is that we want to be. And if we read Paul through that lens, we will misread Paul. Because, Paul writes with what we call an indicative and an imperative. You don't need to know those words. You need to know these words: "Are" and "do."
Paul doesn't say, "Go do all these things and then you look like a Christian."
Paul says, "It's because you are these things, you ought to do them."
In other words, doing flows from being, not the other way around. So, when you're reading Paul and he's telling the church, "Hey, you ought to do these things and do these things and do these things," if you read Paul going, "Okay, he's telling everybody how to become a better Christian. He's telling everybody how to become more holy. He's telling everybody how to become more righteous."
He's not doing that at all. He's saying, "The reason you need to be doing those things is because you already are them. You already are holy. So, the reason you ought to do holy is because you are holy. The reason you ought to do righteous is because you are righteous."
Like when he's writing to the Corinthian church, they're arguing about who baptized them. Maybe like how people here at the church go, "I got baptized by Chip. I wanted to get baptized by Dan or I wanted to get baptized by Tom. So, my baptism didn't work because I don't like Chip. I like Tom better."
They were doing that in the church. They were also arguing over who liked the way they spoke.
"Oh, I like the way this guy speaks better than the other guy."
They were building on the foundation wrong. In chapter 5, somebody was sleeping with a step mother. In chapter 6, people were going and visiting prostitutes. In chapter 7, they didn't even understand what marriage looked like. Chapters 8, 9 and 10, they argued about meat and food sacrificed to idols. In chapter 11, they were messing up the communion table. Some people were even getting drunk before communion. Chapters 12, 13 and 14, they were messing up all the spiritual gifts in the church and it was crazy.
And what does Paul say about them? He says, "To the saints at Corinth."
You go, "Well, they don't look like saints."
That's exactly what Paul would say. They're not doing who they are. Paul's not telling them to do the things that he's doing so that they can become better Christians. He's telling them they ought not to do the things that they're doing because that's not who they are anymore. To Paul, it's all about understanding what Jesus has done in our lives. The more we understand that, the more we start walking that thing out. It'd be like Michael Phelps, the great Olympic swimmer, getting into a car wreck and having amnesia and the doctors get him in a pool and they're like, "Let's try to swim."
And he's like, "I can't swim."
They're like, "Dude, you can swim."
He's like, "No, but I can't swim."
"No, man. You don't understand, buddy. You can swim."
"But, I'm scared of the water."
"No, no, no, man. Let me tell you."
And the more he starts to understand who he is, the more he understands he's an Olympic swimmer. The more we start to understand that we are the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, that we're holy, that we're set apart, that we're His children, the more we start then doing the things that look like who we are. If we read Paul any differently than that, we're likely to butcher some of the text that we read.
Another thing that Paul does – and this is really cool and sometimes we miss it when we read Paul – is Paul takes his eschatology and reads it into his Ecclesiology. You don't need to know those words. That's the study of the Church. That's the study of the future. You just need to know Church and future. Paul things the Church ought to look like what it's going to be in the future. He thinks we're kingdom people now. We're kingdom people now. We sit in heavenly places now. Ephesians 2:6. So, for Paul, everything he's looking at in the now is looked at about what the Church is in heaven. He sees us as kingdom people in the now and we ought to look like kingdom people in the now.
So, now we can start to go into a particular text that has a lot of conflict going on and we can start to read it correctly and start to understand what's going on. That what Paul is saying here is occasional. It's written to a specific time and a specific place. Everything he's saying in this passage aren't necessarily things that you have to go do, but the underlying truths of why he's admonishing them to do the things that they're doing are something that you and I cannot run away from. And they're underlying truths of conflict.
Here's what he's got going on: He's got a church that is absolutely blowing its witness in Corinth. They look no different than the Corinthian people in the culture. They look just like the citizens of Corinth. And Paul's like, "That shouldn't be that way. Because, when you came to Jesus, you're a new creation. You're not the way you used to be. So, you shouldn't be living this way anymore."
One of the things he has going on in his church is he has conflict. He has brothers and sisters that are taking each other to court. They're mad at each other. What's happened is there's a few well-to-do people – Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 1 that "not many of you were well-to-do when you were called."
There's a few people in the church that are well-to-do. Most of them are not. The well-to-do people on property – and somewhere there's been a dispute with this property over some people in the church that are not as well off. Here's the rub: If you have money in Corinth, you could bribe the judge, bribe the lawyers and win. So, rich people won in all the courts in Corinth. Paul writes into that situation where there's conflict about taking each other to court. And we need to sort of peel back what's going on because there's a lot going on here and we might misread this passage if we're not aware of all the things going on.
But, what we're really after is "what are the underlying truths of conflict" so that when we start talking about what to do, we'll know why we do the things that we do.
Here's what Paul says. He says, "If any of you has a dispute..." – and that's a legal dispute over property – "...against another, how dare you take it to court before the unrighteous and not before the saints?"
Now, I've heard a lot of people who say Christians should never go to court. That's what the Bible says. It's really clear here. Why would you take somebody to court because, how dare you take them to court in front of the unrighteous? You should resolve everything in the church. I agree. I think we should try to resolve most things in the church. But, I don't agree that nobody can ever go to court. Because, Paul used to Roman courts to get to Caesar. I always find that interesting when I find somebody that goes, "The Bible's clear. You shouldn't go to court at all."
And I go, "Well, how come Paul used the courts to go to Rome?"
And they're like, "Oh. He did? Really?"
I'm like, "Yeah. He actually used the court in Corinth for his own benefit."
They're like, "Oh. Okay."
That would mean every lawyer that's in here today and every judge that's in here today would be doing the wrong things. And that's not true. God has ordained courts and leaders and stuff. But, his point to the Corinthians is he tells them not to go. Well, there's a reason why he's telling them not to go. We're going to continue to unpack this. Because, what we're trying to do is why would he admonish them to do this? What are the underlying truths?
He says, "If you have a dispute, how dare you take it before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or don't you know that you're going to judge the world?"
See, Paul's living out there in the future. He's like, "Don't you know in the future you're going to judge the world? So, why would you be taking all this stuff before the unrighteous? Guys, do you not know who you are? Have you forgotten what God did in you? Have you forgotten that you're kingdom people?"
He says, "And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge trivial cases?"
That's an insult to those who are ready to take people to court. Like, "You're going to call my property a trivial case?"
Paul's like, "Yeah. What value does that property have in eternity? Zero."
It's like you walk into heaven and go, "I've got some legal papers here, God. Deeds to my property. I'm going to bring them into heaven."
God's like, "You ain't bringing them into heaven. That don't mean anything."
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the affairs of this world because we don't realize who we are.
He says, "Don't you know that we're going to judge angels? How much more matters in this life?"
"You guys in the church can't figure this thing out? You're going to drag it before the people in Corinth? I mean, you guys, everything you're doing, is destroying your witness. Everything you're doing is looking like the world. All of your actions don't look anything like who you really are."
He says, "So if you have such matters, do you appoint as your judges those who have no standing in a church?"
He says, "Since we're going to judge angels and the world, you're going to bring people that have no standing in the church, which means they're not believers? You're going to let them make decisions for you when you're going to be making decisions and judgments on the world and angels? Come on, guys. Get it together."
He says, "So, I say this to your shame. Can it be that there's not one wise person among you who's able to arbitrate between fellow believers?"
"I mean seriously, guys. You can't find one person in the church that could sit down and listen to the problems and make some sort of decision and listen to it? You can't do those things? Come on, guys."
"Instead, you go to court against brother–and that before the unbelievers! As it is, to have legal disputes against one another is already a defeat for you."
This is why Paul is so driven by telling them to stay out of the Corinthian court, because he realizes that their witness is being destroyed in the local community. We see it all the time when Christians go to war against Christians. We fight against everybody and it gets out there in the world and it gets out there in the papers and it gets out there in social media. We look no different than anybody else. And what does the world say? They say, "Those guys just believe in some fantasy guy up in the sky. They're no different than us. They don't look any different than us."
As Christians, we go, "Hold on, now. I know I'm a hypocrite. I know I don't get everything right. But, here's the rub: You and I are supposed to look different from the people in the world."
We are. And Paul says that comes out of realizing what Jesus has done in your life. He says, "It's a defeat for you."
"Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?"
Just take it on the chin. Does that mean that every Christian at every time in their life is to be wronged and cheated on everything that they do? No. Not at all. People go, "The Bible's clear. We've got to be wronged and cheated on everything that we do."
That's ridiculous. The reason Paul is saying this here is because their witness is so damaged that he's like, "You're going to get back in the church, get somebody to arbitrate this thing, take it on the chin. Because, you guys are ruining the Gospel and the witness of Jesus in Corinth by the activities that you're doing because you don't know who you are. You're not acting like it. So, stop it."
He says, "Instead, you're doing wrong and cheating your brothers and sisters."
"You're robbing them of the Gospel and the power and the transformation and their witness in Corinth by doing the things that you're doing. Stop it, guys."
He says, "Don't you know that the unrighteous won't inherit God's kingdom?"
This is when this passage of Scripture – it's like nobody even reads what happened before it. We just grab this on here and go, "A-ha! I see the way you're living. Don't you know that the unrighteous aren't going to inherit the Kingdom of God?"
We've got all these stones to throw at everybody. That's not what he's saying. He's reminding them who they are. They're not unrighteous people. He's like, "Have you forgotten who you were? Have you forgotten that the unrighteous aren't the ones that inherit God's kingdom? They're not the ones that are going to judge the future. They're not the ones that are going to judge the world. They're not the ones that are going to judge angels. They're not the ones that do all this stuff. Don't you know that?"
He says, "Don't be deceived."
Half of the Corinthian church is sexually immoral. He says they've got all kinds of idolatry going on. Adultery. They've got all kinds of adultery going on in the church. He says, "Don't be deceived. These people, sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, males who have sex with males, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people or swindlers will inherit God's kingdom."
We go, "A-ha! There we go. I'm going to watch around and see if everybody's doing this stuff and they can't be a Christian.
That's not what Paul's saying. Paul's reminding them who they are. And listen what he says to them.
"Some of you used to be like this."
I'm trying to come on. I'm preaching all this 5'6 guy can do.
He's like, "You used to be like this. Some of you are acting like what you used to be. But, you're not like that anymore. Because, something happened. Something happened in your life."
"You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
He's like, "Don't you understand? Stop acting like what you're acting like. Stop it."
And unfortunately, you know how we normally read this passage of Scripture in the church is this. We expect Paul to say this: "But, you worked so hard, man. You guys got it all together. You cleaned up. You don't ever do any of these things that the riffraff do anymore. Because of that, God's so proud of you that you've earned entrance into God's kingdom."
Right? That's what we do with those passages. We use them to throw Bible bullets and everything else because we misread Paul. Paul calls them saints. You go, "Well, they don't look like saints."
That's exactly his problem. We need to be reminded who we are. So, when we have conflict in the church, there are some underlying truths that we need to know. There's underlying conflict truths that are going on in this passage of Scripture that do apply to you and me in everything that we do. In every challenge that we have, in every conflict that comes into our life, there are some truths that we need to make sure are operative in our life.
The first one is that we're kingdom people. You and me, that call upon Jesus, are no longer citizens of this world. And yet, we act like we are complete citizens of this world in the way we act, scream and yell on all the things that we do. We are not people of this world anymore. We're in the world; we're not of the world. We're kingdom people and we ought to look like kingdom people.
Jesus said it this way: "Hey, when you guys pray, pray 'Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'"
Everything we do ought to be moving heaven into the earthly realms of conflict, division and all the problems that we have. And instead, oftentimes, us who are God's children and children of the King, and kingdom people, look no different than people of the world and we fight over the same things that they do.
Paul said this to the Philippian church. He said: "Our citizenship is in heaven."
Most Christians don't believe that their citizenship is in heaven, because they fight for things other than citizenship that's in heaven. This is subversive, too. You have no idea. In the Roman world, when Rome controlled everything and to be a part of Rome was huge, this here was completely subversive. You ought to go back – because I think I would offend a lot of people if I just told you about it – and read the first 300 years of the Church. You might be shocked at what they did and did not do. It might blow your mind the way they saw themselves as citizens of heaven.
See, Peter said, "You're strangers and pilgrims on a journey through this world."
Paul said, "You're an ambassador for Christ."
Do you know what an ambassador is? It's someone who comes from another country into the country that they're in to share what their king has sent them to do in that particular country. When are we going to rise up and be kingdom people? When are we going to shake off the affairs of this world and start looking like kingdom people? Like people that can bring heaven to earth in the situations that we're doing?
Can you imagine if we started acting and walking as kingdom people and what that would look like? It would blow everybody away. And you know what? We're called to do that. That's the underlying truth Paul employs here. You're kingdom people. Act like it.
The second thing he employs is when the Church fails at conflict – this is the underlying truth here – it damages relationships within and it destroys our witness without. This is huge. Because, see, what we do when we get into conflict is we think about the way it works for me. We're not thinking in terms of, "Well, how does this effect the Church? How does this effect the witness of the Church?"
We're not even thinking that way at all. We're thinking, "How can I get out of this or how can I win?"
Conflict in the Church – the "why" is that when we fail at this, we damage relationships and we destroy our witness. You know, when Adam sinned, guess who sinned? All of us. We go, "Well, that's not fair."
But, when Jesus died on the cross and gave provision for salvation for everybody, we go, "I like that one. That one's a good one."
We like the ones that we like. We just don't like the ones that we don't like. When Achan still the temple treasure from Jericho, when Israel went into battle next, what happened? They lost. One man effected the many. One person effected the many. Your sins and my sins effect the body whether you think they do or not. There are no secret things. We're in this thing together. It's not "my" Father, it's our Father. That's why Paul says when we come to the Lord's table, it's all about becoming the people of God.
Listen: This is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is remembering the giving of the Law at Sinai. When God gave the Law at Sinai, He took slaves and He made them kingdom of priests. He transformed a people and made them into His new people. On the day of Pentecost, He took fishermen, tax collectors and zealots and He made them into the Ecclesia of God; the called-out Church of the Living God. God wants a new people that look like His kingdom, that live by His Spirit, that do the things that He's asked us to do because we understand that we already are those things. We are King's kids. We're forgiven. We're holy. We're righteous and we should live up to the things that God has done in our lives.
That's why he says doing this stuff is a defeat for you. Stop it. Take it on the chin. Because, you're destroying your witness. That's why Paul tells them that admonition, because there's an underlying truth there. Let me ask you this question: What if we were driven by continually asking ourselves this whenever any conflict came up anywhere? In our marriages, at work, fathers and sons, whatever. How does it effect those within the church and how does this effect the witness without? We don't even ask these questions, because all we're concerned about, really, at the end of the day – and it's unfortunate – is self.
Kingdom people aren't concerned with self. Kingdom people are concerned with the calls of Christ. Kingdom people want to do what Jesus has asked them to do. And I'm going to tell you something right now: Following Jesus, if you don't believe in a resurrection and you don't believe in eternity, is nonsense. Because, you have to believe there's something else if you're going to turn the other cheek. You have to believe there's something else if you're going to love somebody the way Jesus asked us to love. It really comes down to do you believe.
See, what we like to do is we like to hedge our bets. We want to be citizens of this world and we fight about all this stuff and get mad and everybody gets so upset about all the affairs of this world. And then we hope that there's a resurrection and there's a Jesus. What if we walked as if that was really true? We wouldn't care about the things of this world. They would go strangely dim. And what would happen is eternity would be the driver of everything that we do.
That's my third point. The matters of eternity should drive the values of the Church. Everything should be looked at through the lens of eternity. Paul does that. Everything is driven by "what does this mean in heaven?"
What does this mean in eternity? Think about that every time you get in a fight with somebody, get mad at something or you throw something at the TV because you don't like something. What if you asked yourself the question, "Is this going to matter in eternity?"
Not at all, in any way, shape or form. That should drive the values of the Church. That's why Paul does this. This is beautiful, what he does, because Paul's a great arguer. He starts off with legal dispute. I guarantee you when it was read they're like, "Ha ha! Yeah, that's right I've got a legal dispute. These people are doing something with my property and I'm going to get 'em."
Well, the next time he talks about it, he calls it a trivial case.
"Well, that's unfair. It ain't trivial to me. It's a property I own. I'm going to put my foot on that property. Trivial case? Come on."
And then Paul says, "It's just a matter of this life. It doesn't matter in eternity. It's just a matter of this life."
He says, "Your disputes and trivial matters in life, they don't matter. You guys are getting all yanked up about stuff that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter in light of eternity."
Gordon Fee, the great New Testament scholar, says this about the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 6:
"Such matters are trivial. They add up to zero in light [of eternity] of the coming eschatological judgment."
In other words, when you stand before God, they're zero.
"People who do such are just simply after the wrong things. They altogether miss the meaning of their present existence as the people of God; people who live in the present by the values of the future. Can you imagine if we decided, "God, I want to be a kingdom person?"
I want to bring heaven to earth. Every time I've got a conflict, I want to do what You want me to do. I want to be like Jesus. Man, I want to lay it down. I want to see You work. Lord, I know in my weakness You're made strong. God, I'm going to be a kingdom person. God, I'm going to take notice that when conflict's going on, if I don't do it the way You want me to do it and I don't behave in a Christian way, what I can do is destroy relationships within the church and I can damage the witness of the church without.
And not only that, God. Help me to be a person that's got my eyes fixed on the things that matter. Lay up treasures in heaven where moth can't destroy them and rust can't destroy them. Laying up things that matter; being people that matter. Driven by eternity. Seeing people as an opportunity in conflict for transformation of relationships, transformation of churches, transformation of community. It requires us to look at each other maybe in a little bit of a different way.
I'll close with this. In the Second World War, in a fox hole, a soldier jumped down in in the middle of a raging war. He realized he was laying next to another soldier on the other side that was dying. He looked at him and he knew that he as no threat. The other solider looked at him with tears in his eyes, because he knew he was dying. The soldier took his hand and he put it on his shoulder. The solider that was dying, with his hands shaking, reached in and pulled out a picture of his wife and his kids. The other soldier reached in and pulled out a picture of his wife and his kids.
All of a sudden, it didn't make a difference that they were enemies. All that mattered is they were human beings. We're called to be people that see people as human beings with dignity and value. When we treat people like that, we're doing what God did for us. While we were enemies, Christ came to us. Conflict gives you and me an awesome opportunity to shine brightly as kingdom people of God. But, we'll never understand the "what" until we understand the "why."
Next week, come back and we're going to look at what Jesus says about this and then we're going to spend two good weeks getting really practical and real and raw about this. And I believe if you and I will engage, we not only will see transformation in this church, but we'll see transformation in Lakewood Ranch. And let me tell you something: I am committed to dragging every soul that we can into the Kingdom of God. I want to make it so difficult to go to hell in Lakewood Ranch because we are kingdom people that are bringing heaven to earth.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for this opportunity today to talk about these subjects that we're talking about. I pray that You would download deeply in us the truths of conflict; the why. I pray for those who watch via the internet and the mobile app and I pray for everyone here in the sanctuary. God, I pray that You would help us to take these next couple of weeks to allow us to be people that You speak to and to rise up and to be the people that we already are in Jesus.
I pray that as we leave today that You would watch over us and protect us and that You would lead and guide us. I pray that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, continue to raise up a body here that looks like Jesus to make an impact in this world for Your glory and for Your honor. We thank You for it in Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. There was a family of five children – obviously they also had a mother and father – that, over time, the father passed away and then, over time, the mother passed away. The siblings had a suspicion that, as the will would be read, the estate – which was not huge, but was meaningful and consisted of a main house, a couple pieces of property and some retirement funds and insurance money – would be distributed equally amongst the five.
Well, as the will was read, their suspicions were correct. The estate was to be equally distributed amongst all five siblings. Well, there was a little bit of a problem there because one of the siblings had grown up and had never moved out of the main house. He was a young man who had an emotional and learning disability. So, the other four got together and they said, "Listen, mom and dad want all of this equally distributed. So, what we'll do is we'll sell the main house, sell the properties, get all the stuff together and sell everything that we can sell. We'll put all the money together and we'll divide it equally amongst all five of us to make sure that everybody gets their fair share. We'll move our brother from the house downtown to a nice apartment. It'll probably be a nicer place than he's living now."
Everybody agreed that that was the way to go. So, they decided to contact a realtor, they put the main house up for sale, and the first time that the realtor went to the house he was met with a baseball bat by this young man who figured he wasn't moving out of the house. At that point, they knew that they had a family conflict.
So, the executor of the will asked if a mediator would come in. The mediator came in, sat down and listened to the four siblings. He said, "Explain to me the rational of how you've got to where you've got to about the way the estate should be distributed?"
Then he went and talked to the young man who had the emotional and learning disability. Then he came back to the four, sat them down and says, "Listen, I need to have a candid conversation with all of you. So, sit down here and look at me here because this is going to be a really important conversation. Are all of you Christians?"
They said, "Well, yeah. We're Christians."
He said, "You go to church on a regular basis?"
They're like, "Yeah, we even show up on Memorial Day weekend."
You know? He said, "So, you really are followers of Jesus, right?"
They all said, "Yeah."
He said, "Okay. Well, I'm going to ask you a real big question right now. I want you to lean in, all of you four. What are you all doing differently with this conflict than an atheist would?"
At that point, some light bulbs went off. At that point, they started to think about some things that they might be able to change. That story is not unlike many stories that you and I are aware of of conflict in our lives. In fact, we know this to be true and it's just a fact. It's in our lives whether we like it or not. In fact, it comes in so many different shapes and sizes. Many of us have conflicts at home. Many of us have conflicts with children. Many of us have conflicts with moms or dads, at work with a boss or maybe an employee or employees that we work with. Or maybe our neighbors.
Conflict is everywhere. None of us avoid it. It's just impossible for us not to be dealing with conflict. That being true, there's an equal truth that's really disturbing. It's this truth: Most of us are ill equipped to handle conflict. We don't know what to do with it when it comes our way. In fact, most Christians are under the impression that all conflict is sort of bad to begin with, so we already start off at a bad understanding of this idea of conflict. But, most people don't know how to deal with conflict. They just don't know.
Whether you're Christian or not a Christian, most people deal with conflict in two ways, but they're not really dealing with conflict. In fact, they're just continuing to perpetuate it. The way we deal with it usually or the way we try to handle it is that we either try to escape it or we try to escalate it. We fight or we have flight in our lives. Most Christians as a general rule, since they think conflict is bad, just try to figure out how to escape it. We learn to sort of be like Houdini artists and what we want to do is deny the fact that it's going on. You can see it oftentimes in a church setting where there is conflict going on and you know there's conflict going on.
It's like one person will go around one hub and the other person will come around the next hub, you know? And they sort of do their thing. Or at work if we're trying to escape conflict. It's like one person will go in one way, the other person will go in the other way. They'll go out to their cars different ways just sort of acting like it's not happening. They're in denial. Or maybe they'll run from it. You see people all the time when conflict gets really bad who just want to run. They'll go somewhere else and get away from it.
When we do that, when that's the way we respond to conflict, what we're saying is it's really about me. It's about me, the way I feel. I don't want to deal with this. I don't know what to do with it. So, I'm just going to run. I'm just going to get away from it because I don't know what to do and it bothers me. So, I'm going to get away from it.
That's not handling conflict. In fact, that just continues to perpetuate it and make it worse. Well, then there's other ways that we've learned to deal with conflict and some people have said, "Well, since everybody's trying to escape it or run from it, maybe if I escalate it I can win and I can just get this thing over with."
So, what happens is people escalate conflict and what happens is they want to get control. They don't want to lose. They want to win. They'll even get to the place of being angry or violent about it. They'll even go to the point of litigating to make sure that they win. And when you're on that side of trying to deal with conflict, what you're saying is it's all about the other person's fault. It's all about you. You're the problem and I'm going to win. And it doesn't take any sort of notice at all that maybe I did something or said something or contributed something or whatever.
So, the way we're dealing with it is we try to escape it or we try to escalate it. Here's the truth of the matter: Unresolved conflict deteriorates relationships in our lives and it destroys us. Lean in here and listen to this, because this is so important. I can tell you this as a pastor and I can tell you that other pastors say the same thing to me. I can tell you counselors say the same thing to me. It's just the stone cold reality here about the life that we live. When you find, like today, we've got more people on anxiety medication, we've got more people drinking two or three drinks at night to just sort of get rid of all the angst and frustration. We have more people that are just amped up. You can just see it. I mean, there's just a lot of hatred and anger in people's lives. People are driving down the road mad because you pulled out in front of them.
When you sit down and I sit down and talk to people in their lives and we see all of the stuff that's going on in their lives; the anxiety, all of the fear and all of the stuff. When you sit down, about 95% of those people that are dealing with those issues have an area in their life of unresolved conflict. They've got a problem with their dad, they've got a problem with their wife, they've got a problem with whatever and it's coming out sideways.
You know, I always say the person that's driving down the road and you pulled out in front of them and you didn't mean to pull out in front of them and you're telling them sorry and they're screaming at you, they're not screaming at you. They had something that happened three hours earlier and it's just coming out sideways on you. Because, most people don't act like that. We live in this world of unresolved conflict and we're ill equipped to handle it and it's not a good thing at all.
In fact, not only does it mess us up in these interpersonal relationships, but oftentimes – we don't think about this as Christians – it blocks our relationship with God. There's problems even with God. Look what John says. John says, "If anyone says, 'I love God. Me and God are cool. Everything's good. Me and God? We're there,' and yet hates his brother or sister, he's a liar."
I'll be honest with you. If I was writing 1 John, I would have probably said "he's a little misguided." He's a liar? That's pretty strong, isn't it? That's why I always tell me kids that when I'm teaching about homiletics, which is how to preach, I'm like, "Sick with the Bible, because if they get mad at the Bible, at least they're not mad at you. If you start preaching your own opinions, they're going to get mad at you."
But, the reality is he says he's a liar. Listen: For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has sin. People ask me, "Who am I supposed to love?"
People you can see.
"Well, who am I supposed to love?"
If you can see them, you're supposed to love them. If you can't love your brother or sister whom you have seen, you can't love God whom he has not seen. Let me break this down into a 2017, easy to understand way to interpret this passage of Scripture: You can't be right with God and wrong with people.
You can't. In fact, were most of y'all here last week? Were you here last weekend? Right? You know, Tom talked about how he did all that deep diving in Scripture and the Greek and everything? The only deep dive in Greek is in a Greek salad for him, okay? I just want to make sure that you all understand that. You know, he told you all that he passed Greek and Hebrew? No. You need to pay attention to the word. He went past the classes where Greek and Hebrew were being taught, okay? That's a really important thing. And he gave you that Tom Jones version, right? See, what this is is the Chip Bennett version right here, which is a much superior translation to the Tom Jones version. It also avoids its heretical tendencies.
No, I'm just kidding. I'm just playing. Did Tom not do a great job? Come on. He did a fantastic job. Tom and I have known each other for 30 years. We can play like that. We're like brothers. But, I'll tell you something. It's so nice, as a pastor, to know that there's someone in the church that can fill in and do such life-giving sermons to our church. Tom did a great job. Nanette runs our children's department. Madi does The Plug. It really is "Keeping Up with the Jones'" around this church. I'm telling you right now. Alright? But, good stuff.
But, we can't be right with God and wrong with people. Not only that, but it blocks our prayers if there's conflict in our lives. Look what Peter says. Peter says, "Husbands," – listen – "live with your wives in an understanding way."
First century women were just like property. He says, "No, no. You treat your women right. You treat your wives right."
Because, if you don't, it's going to hinder your prayers. And that doesn't just apply in marriage; that applies in life. Oftentimes, we're like, "I wonder why God's not answering my prayer."
Maybe there's some unresolved conflict in our lives. How about this one? It blocks our worship with God. These are passages of Scripture that I'm going to read to you that I say that we read them but we don't do them. Because, I get a lot of people since I teach who will come up to me and say, "Hey, Chip. You believe the Bible literally?"
And I just want to go, "Well, do you actually do it? Let's stop talking about how we interpret it. Let's talk about do we do it?"
This is one of those passages where we all go, "Oh, man. That is a tough one."
Look what Jesus says here. He says, "If you're offering your gift on the alter, you come to church and you're offering your gift to God and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, some conflict going on, here's what you do: You leave your gift there in front of the alter. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift."
Which means for many people in the Church throughout the world that they would need to not come into a Sunday service and go get right with someone else first before they came in and sang "it is well" with Justine. This is a real like, "Ah, man."
This is where it gets real. Look at me here and lean in here. We can't escape it and we can't escalate it. You and me, who call upon the name of the Lord, who say, "We believe that Jesus Christ is really who He is," we're called to be different. We're not called to look like everybody else. We're not called to handle it the way everybody else calls it. We're called to be different. In fact, when Jesus talks about you and me and He talks about those people that will be called the children of God, when He says, "The sons of God and the daughters of God – the children of God," this is what He says in the beatitudes:
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God."
We're called to be peacemakers. We're called to see conflict as an opportunity to bring in the Gospel of Jesus Christ into a conflict zone to see God start to transform you, me, others, churches and society and communities. That's what this is all about. We can't just do it by escaping it. We're not going to handle anything. We can't do it by escalating it. We've got to learn to transform conflict or we're going to be a little bit behind the curve of what we should be doing as Christians.
In fact, we talk about transforming conflict. What we're talking about now is I'm putting God first and it's not about me and it's not about you. It's about "we." And the reason it's always about "we" is because God is a relational God. In His essence, before He ever created the world, before He ever created you and me, before any of that ever happened, He existed in a community. He existed Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God's essence is a community relationship. God is all about relationships. It's all about that. And when we breakdown relationship, because the Bible, everything about the Bible is based on two things: Relationship with God and relationship with other people.
You know, when we read the Bible, we pick out sins, right? We go, "Oh, that's a sin. You shouldn't be doing that."
No, no, no. All of the things that we call sins in the Bible that we want to point out in other people like, "Oh, you're doing that? You're a sinner. You're not going to go to heaven."
All of those things, fundamentally, are a break in either a relationship with God, which means we're putting other things before Him, or we're treating others in a way that we shouldn't be treating them. Because, we treated them with dignity and respect, we wouldn't be doing the things that we're doing. We wouldn't cheat on people, we wouldn't lie. It's the fact that we're not treating others the way we're supposed to be treating them.
So, we can transform conflict. We can overlook an offense. I mean, this would be awesome. If you're a mature Christian, when somebody does you wrong, sometimes you've just got to be able to get over it. I can't tell you how many Christians were just so sensitive to everything. We can be in the hub and two people can be talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals and you can be thinking they're talking about you and you're offended. Right?
Sometimes we've just got to grow up. We've got to stop being so sensitive. Sometimes we can transform lives by just overlooking things. Sometimes we need to reconcile. Sometimes we need to get down and dirty and say, "Hey, this has gone on and we need to get this thing right."
Well, if you can't do that, then we need to learn how to mediate. We're going to look at Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6 over the next few weeks. We're going to read some of those passages of Scripture and you're going to be like, "Whoa, man. I had no idea this was in the Bible. This? Wow."
It's really going to be a mind-blowing experience because Jesus is like, "Hey, if you can't get it right, then get some other people in the church to come and let's handle it and let's get it right."
In fact, in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul says, "Hey, you shouldn't be dragging people in front of the courts. What you need to do is you need to come into church and you need to let the people in the church then decide your issue if you can't do it."
Because, the last thing we want to do is have a bad witness out there in the world that makes us look like we're not peacemakers. We're called to transform stuff. This is huge. It's huge that we learn to get equipped to handle conflict, because it's not going away. And let me pull the curtain back a little bit here for everybody that's here and for those that watch via the internet and the mobile app. Traditionally the way we do things around here is we try to plan some series' out in advance. You know, at the beginning of the year, I sort of lay out like 10 or 12 potential series' that I'm going to be dealing with and try to give them a rough skeleton and then I tell them, "Hey, I'm going to do this one next and this will be next," and we try to work two or three ahead.
These three weeks – this weekend and the next two weekends – were built into the calendar for me to sort of have some free flow time to deal with some issues that maybe I just wanted to talk about. Some one-off sermons. They weren't supposed to be a series. We were supposed to move from Blueprint Myth into a series as Father's Day was starting called "Risk." What happened was in the middle of Blueprint Myth I just started, in my heart – nothing here with the church. But, just talking to people and seeing things and just the world that we live in and some of the hostilities that are going on, I just in my heart said, "You know what? I really need to speak about conflict."
And I'm always – if you know me very well, sometimes I don't know the difference. Am I hearing from God or was it a bad burrito? You know? You're just like, "Which one is it?"
But, a lot of people over the last three messages – and this will be the fourth one – have said, "Man, this was really timely. I needed to hear this," which is great, because I really felt in my heart that we need to be talking about this. If this is your first time at Grace or maybe you're not even a Christian and you don't even know what to do with the God thing, I can tell you you're going to get a lot of good information that will help you out in your understanding of God.
But, for those of us who are Christians, we need to get equipped and we need to really know what to do in handling conflict because we don't usually, as a general rule, do a very good job with it and we don't see it as an opportunity to see God move in our life.
So, here's what I want to do for the next few minutes here before we get out of here: I want to talk to you about some life lessons. What I'm trying to do here this weekend is I'm trying to set up a crucible, so to speak. I'm trying to set up a platform that God can start to work in our hearts so over the next three or so weeks – maybe even four – as we look at Scripture and really look at some of the things that God has said and then we get really practical. Because, I know some of you are thinking, "I've got this relationship and I've tried. I don't know what to do. Do I need to create boundaries?"
We're going to talk about all of those things. We're going to get really, really practical, which is why I want you to be here. And if, for some reason, you missed Memorial Day weekend and you're watching on the internet, allow yourself to let God speak to you about these issues because there's five of them I want us to just sort of process through over the next week so that we can allow our hearts and our spirits to become fertile ground for God to help us deal with this issue of conflict.
The first one – if you take notes, this is a great time to write stuff down. If you don't take notes, it's a great time to learn to be a note taker. Okay? So, here's what we're going to do here. The first one is – and this is just the truth of life – getting rid of conflict is impossible. You and I want to get rid of it. We'd love to get rid of it. It's not going anywhere. In fact, there was a pastor that did a marriage seminar with married people and it was all about dealing with conflict in marriage. And, at the end of the two-day seminar, he told everybody, "I'm going to pray over you guys and gals, but on your way out I've got you a little wooden cross and I want you to pick it up as a couple. We're giving you this wooden cross because we want you to take it home and we want you to put it in the room where you have the most conflict at. So, when you go in there and you start to have conflict, you'll remember the principles and things that we taught you. You'll also remember to lay things at the cross, check your ego and pride and all of that."
And everybody said "amen" and he prayed for them and he was sort of getting his stuff together. And he noticed there were like 100 couples lingering around. And he's trying to figure out what was going on. It didn't look like they were there just to talk. They looked like they were there needing something from him. So, finally, he said, "Can I help you guys?"
And they're like, "Yeah. Have you got some more crosses? Because we've got more rooms in the house than just one that we fight in."
Right? The reality is this is just true. Getting rid of conflict is impossible. In fact, lean in here and listen to this: God has created the body of Christ and has created the Church in a way that there's always going to be conflict. Do you know why? Because He didn't call us to uniformity. He called us to unity. To be in unity means that we've got to put away some of the peripheral things and focus on the main thing, which means we're always going to have those areas of conflict to try to figure out what's the most important thing in a church.
You're not going to get rid of conflict. Let God speak that deep inside of you. Because, some of you are like, "Ah, I don't want to hear about conflict. I want to run from it. I don't want to deal with this stuff. I want to push it away."
It's not going anywhere. In fact, Ken Sande, who is one of the foremost Christian mediators in conflict, this is what he says:
"The Bible teaches that we should see conflict neither as an inconvenience nor as an occasion to force our will on others, but rather as an opportunity to demonstrate the love and power of God."
Can you imagine if every time we entered into an area of conflict we said, "Man, alright. Yes. This is a great opportunity for God to work in my life, in their life and transform some of them. This is a great opportunity for the power of God to be shown."
It totally would change the way we deal with conflict. Life lesson number one: You're not going to get rid of conflict. Secondly, conflict only becomes sinful when our responses are wrong. You know, I talk to so many Christians and they say, "Okay. Conflict's wrong."
No, no, no. Conflict's not wrong. Conflict is all over the Bible. It's not the conflict that ever gets dealt with, it's the way in which people respond to the conflict that the Bible writers talk about. It's the response to it. In fact, in the book of Ephesians when Paul is dealing with a church that's having some internal struggles, here's what he says to them:
"Be angry and don't sin."
In other words, when you do life together with Christians and you do church together or you do marriage together or you do friendships together, there's going to be times where people just get on your nerves. Right? That's not the time where you take your elbow and punch your spouse right now, okay? The divine elbow gets rebuked right now in the name of Jesus. Alright? Don't be doing that. But, the reality is we do. We get frustrated from time to time. We get frustrated at pastors. Tom. We get frustrated – but, we do. You know? The reality is that there's all of that stuff that goes on in our lives and Paul says, "Listen, you're going to get angry from time to time. You're going to get hot from time to time. But, what I don't want you to do is respond to it in a bad way."
Because, when you do and you let that germinate and you let that seed get planted, what you do is you give the devil an opportunity. And what happens is that seed starts to germinate and starts to grow and it starts to deteriorate relationships and it destroys you and me.
In fact, a few verses later, Paul says, "Don't grieve God's spirit."
How do you grieve God's spirit? You grieve God's spirit by having conflict amongst people and not dealing with it rightly. That's why He says, "Listen, you were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. So, let all bitterness, anger, wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you."
He's like, "Listen, you're going to have conflict, guys. But the way you're handling it is wrong. The way you're handling it is allowing the devil to plant some seeds in you that's going to destroy you and damage those relationships. Don't do it. Don't let all this stuff go on. Here's what I want you to do: Be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another just as God in Christ also forgave you."
It's not the conflict that's the issue, it's the way we respond to it. And when we respond with destructive words, gossiping, hurtful things, abusive stuff, anger and violence, that's when we've stepped into an area that gives the devil the ability to deteriorate those relationships and destroy you and me. It's not that the conflict is bad. It's the response that we have towards it. If we see conflict as an opportunity for God to put His power and Gospel in place and to bring the peace of God and transformation, it changes the way we deal with it. But, when we see conflict as something that we run from or something that we escalate, our response is not going to be good and it's going to create these areas in our lives that many of us are aware of where we just stay up at night, we're bothered, we're worried, we have all kinds of stuff.
Jesus says that conflict's going to happen. You can read it in Luke 16. He says, "Offenses are going to come. Conflict's coming your way."
So, you can't run from it. It's impossible to get away from. And your response will really change everything about conflict.
Thirdly, and thank God, Scripture provides help to us in dealing with this issue. It's Scriptures maybe we don't read very often or Scriptures that maybe we don't want to do. I know nobody wants to raise their hand, but I'll do this for you. I'll take on the sin of the congregation. There's plenty of times when I read the Bible and I go, "I just simply don't want to do that. I just don't want to do that."
And I have a conversation with God. Listen, if it were my world, this is the way it would go down. And God's not concerned with my world. He's like, "Dude. This is what it is, Bennett."
So, I know you all never do that. I'll just go ahead and confess that sometimes I read Scripture and go, "I don't want to do that. I don't want to act like that. I want to do this."
Okay? So, Scripture tells us, but we get to choose whether or not we want to follow Scripture. And one of the things we're going to find when we really look at Scripture is this: Dealing with broken issues is the business of the church. That's what we do. If you're new here today, let me tell you something. Grace Community Church is not a courtroom. You're not going to come through these doors and we're going to tell you what you did wrong and all this stuff and everything else.
Grace Community Church is a place where you can understand that God loves you with an everlasting love. He is the bloodhound of heaven. He jumps off the porch of the prodigal son's house and he runs towards you and me and puts His robe on us and His ring and His sandals. He loves you and me. This is not a courtroom. Grace Community Church will always be a place where we come in here and try to deal with issues so that we can look more and more like Jesus so that when we leave here we can make it tough for people to go to hell in Lakewood Ranch.
Fourth – and this is a big one. Write this down. Download this. Conflict is used by God for our growth, learning, transformation and salvation of others. Like, "Whoa. God could use conflict for salvation?"
Yeah. When the four young siblings realized that they were really not taking into account their brother's needs, they really realized that they weren't putting him first. They weren't doing the godly thing first. They found a way to keep him in the house and still get rid of the stuff and to create a trust for him so that he could live in the house and then everybody came together and all of it was great and everybody loved each other. But, the kicker is that the children in that family came to faith because they saw God active in their family members and their moms and dads in the way that they handled conflict.
Everybody grew from it. Everybody learned from it. Everybody transformed from it. And some people even came to faith.
Now, many of you all maybe have read 1 Corinthians. Some of you maybe in here go, "I didn't even know that was a book in the Bible."
That's okay. We meet everybody where we're at.
"Where's 1 Corinthians?"
Go to Matthew at turn right. You'll eventually run into it. It's 16 chapters, so it's pretty big. But, the reality is this: Most of us, if we've read 1 Corinthians, if we're honest – and I hope everybody's honest here – when you read chapters 8, 9 and 10, you're doing the head scratch when you read it because it's all about this meat that's been sacrificed to idols. And you're like, "What is that all about?"
It's not like when I go to Publix there's the Beelzebub Filet. The raw sirloin. The Zeus Porterhouse. You know? We don't deal with any of that stuff so it's like, "What? What is that about?"
Well, in first century Corinth, what happened was the meat shambles where they would go get their meat, all that meat had been offered to all kinds of different gods and all kinds of different temples. So, the Christians would come in and some would be like, "I'm super Christian. Me and God are cool. I can eat whatever I want to eat. It don't make a difference. I don't care if it's the Beelzebub Porterhouse. I'm going to chow down because God's God and they're not. Amen. Hallelujah. I've got the Spirit walking in me. I can do that."
Other Christians were like, "Man, I want to be holy and I really want to do the right thing. I'm not quite sure eating that stuff's good because it was sort of sacrificed to another God and I believe that I'm supposed to be holy. So, I'm not sure what to do."
Then there were others going, "Well, what do you do when you go over to your friend's house and your friend's not a Christian and he serves you up the Satan Sirloin? What do you do? Do you eat it? Do you not eat it? How do you handle that?"
So, there was a lot of conflict going on in Corinth about this particular issue. Here's what Paul says – and you may be taken back at what Paul says. It may blow your mind, what Paul says. Here's how he sums it up after he's talked about how you do this and how you do that and how you don't do this and how you don't offend and how you work. Here's what he says:
"So, whether you eat or drink, whatever you're doing or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Put God first. Not super Christian or 'I can eat it' or 'I can't.' No, no. Do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense. Don't create any conflict for Jews, Greeks or your brothers and sisters in the Lord. This is the way I want you to handle it. Just as I, also try to please everyone in everything. It doesn't always happen. It doesn't always happen. But, I try my best to make sure, in everything that I do, I'm looking out for the other person first. Not seeking my own benefit, but the benefit of man."
Listen: "So that they may be saved."
In other words, when the Church doesn't walk in all the things that God wants us to walk in, we become a bad witness out there in the world and the world look at the Church and goes, "There's no difference between them and us."
Paul says, "No, no, no. I'm going to live my life serving others."
Do you know why? Because, Paul knew he was in and Paul wanted to drag as many people as he could with him. And so many people will sit here and go, "Yeah. I don't want to do this because that means if I have to give too much somebody might take advantage of me or I might..."
Whatever, whatever. Listen to me. Do you know why Paul can live this way and do you know why you and I can live this way? Because Jesus has already won. We're winners. We've won. We can't lose. We've won. We're on the right side. So, since we've won, why don't we do whatever it takes to drag everybody else in to be a winner too? You know, the more I pray and the more I come in here, the more my heart starts pumping. I want Grace Community Church to be the church in Lakewood Ranch that makes it so difficult for anybody – I want it to be miserable for people to try to figure out a way to go to hell. I want to love people and be people of peace and people that serve and people of grace so that people can be saved.
If we look at conflict as an opportunity for me to grow and to learn and to transform and to see that in others and to see that in the Church and to see that in the world and to realize that the way we behave and the things that we do could in fact lead someone to ask the question, "Why are you doing it that way? Because, nobody does it that way."
Oh, that's not true. Jesus does it that way. Let me tell you about Jesus.
That's when it all matters, when God just uses you and me, just being faithful to the things that He’s asked us to do, to be that conduit to bring that person into the Kingdom of God.
Fifth: As Christians, we don't seek the absence of conflict – and so many Christians do. We seek the presence of shalom. There's a big difference. You know, we talk about shalom and people go, "Ah, that's a Jewish word, I think. What's it mean? Peace or prosperity? I think it's a little bit more than just peace."
And we're not quite sure what that word means. Well, the word "shalom" is built on three pillars. It's built on truth, mercy and justice. You can't walk in biblical shalom, which all of us want – I've never met any Christian that says, "Man, I don't want to walk in the fullness of God, man. I like to be half in. I don't really care if I sin a little bit here."
Most people are like, "Man, I really want more of God. Sometimes I don't know what I'm doing, but I want more of God. I really want God's abundant life."
Well, the shalom of God is built on three pillars and they're all relational with other people. Relational with God. The first one is truth. This is acknowledging the wrong we've played in the conflict and accepting responsibility for hurting the other person. Sometimes we've just got to own it. Like, I don't know about you all. Maybe your kids are not like mine. But, my kids will do something to another one of the other kids in the house and you'll see them do it and then you'll say, "Hey, why'd you do that? I didn't do that."
I'm like, "You did bite them. They have teeth marks on their arm."
And they're like, "No. That was somebody else."
"There's nobody else in the room but me and you and that's not my teeth."
They're like, "I didn't do that."
Sometimes we've just got to man up or woman up and say, "I'm guilty. I shouldn't have said what I said. I shouldn't have responded that way. I shouldn't have talked about them that way. I contributed some to this mess. It takes two to tango. I'm going to acknowledge the wrong. I played in the conflict and I'm going to acknowledge the fact that I hurt somebody else."
In fact, John always talks about this in terms of saying the same thing. The word "confess; if we confess our sins," that means to say the same thing. Anybody ever done this one?
"God, I'm sorry about what I did last Thursday."
God, I gossiped about so-and-so and this is what I did."
That's the way God wants us to pray our prayers.
"I think I sinned last week. I'm not quite sure."
No. You did. This is what you did. If we confess our sins, He's faithful and righteous to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That's called walking in the truth. That's called walking in the light. We're called to walk in truth. Not only that, but we're called to walk in mercy. Mercy is the need to accept the other person, let go of past hurts and allow for new beginnings. We'll never walk in the shalom with God if all we do is walk in truth but we're unwilling to accept other people, we're unwilling to let past hurts go, we're unwilling to start again new. We'll never have shalom because it's all about relationships.
Sometimes people go, "Well, that's hard because somebody's done me wrong."
Listen, I get it. It's not like I live in some different world than you all do or put on my pants differently than you all. I get it. Sometimes you just don't want to forgive somebody. Sometimes it hurts you really bad. This is a little trick I've learned, and we'll talk a little bit more about this over the next several weeks. But, this is a trick I've learned: When somebody's done you wrong and you're just really mad and you're frustrated, if you'll go find yourself a closet – I'm talking about a real closet. One that's dark. You know? You just shut that door, get in there and you have this moment.
You sit in there and say, "God, when I first came to faith, when You found me, this is what I was doing and this is the way I talked and these are the sins that I was doing. This is who I was doing wrong. These are the things I was doing wrong. God, You just cascaded Your love and mercy on me. Man, You just gave me a full dose of grace. You were like the bloodhound of heaven. You made me feel like I had value and dignity. Man, You shaped me up. You came down and You poured Your love out on me. God, I was so unworthy of it. Man, I was so bad off. But, God, thank You so much for reaching out to me. Thank You so much that when I was an enemy You came to me. Thank You so much for sending Jesus."
It's really hard to walk out of the closet and then not go be nice to somebody else after you've had one of those moments. You know what I'm talking about?
The last one – and we struggle with this one. This is one that's sort of foreign to all of us. This idea of justice. We sort of get the truth and mercy thing, but the justice thing, "I don't understand what that means."
When you read the righteousness of God in the New Testament, that is the Jewish theme of justice that runs through the whole Bible. The idea of the righteousness of God and the justice of God is Him putting everything back to the way it should be. It's bringing it back to right. It's bringing it back to getting it the way it should be, which means people have rights and dignities.
A lot of times, students will say to me, "In the Old Testament, it always talks about the people that are sinners and that the people of iniquity don't understand the rights of the poor. What does that mean?"
Well, what that means is in that time, people that had didn't want to have anything to do with the poor people because they didn't want to give up something that they had to help others. So, what they did is they called them poor. What happens is when we give somebody a label, like "tax collectors," "sinners," "poor," or whatever else, we can treat them less than human. The Bible says that the justice of God treats everybody with rights and respect. Everybody has dignity. Everybody is someone that God cares about. We recognize rights.
We establish healthy boundaries by restricting our relationships with justice. You know, I'll be honest here. I think the Church has done a miserable job over the last several hundred years to woman, to be honest with you. I think many times we've treated women horribly. I've heard preachers and people say to women who were in abusive relationships or violent relationships, "You just stand by your man and you pray to God."
No. You need to get out of that situation. God has not called you to get hit. That's the justice of God. We'll never have shalom if we don't have boundaries that we can set in our lives that allow for us to have good interaction. And sometimes it's even providing restitution. It's paying back things that you've done wrong to someone. In fact, we see it in the Proverbs this way:
"Justice executed is a joy to the righteous, but a terror to those who practice iniquity."
What does that mean? It means that when someone is not honoring God in the place that they should be and is not valuing people in the way that they should, when somebody comes along and talks about justice, it's a terror to them. Because, what happens is it messes up their life. They want to live their life a certain way and God says, "No, no. I want you to live it differently."
So, see, justice executed is a joy to those who really want to do the God thing and the people thing the way it should be. For us to live in shalom, we've got to live in truth, mercy and justice. So, that's what we want to do here. We want to get equipped over the next few weeks to deal with conflict and to live in the abundant life that God has for you and me and to see God use you and me in ways that we have never, ever, ever seen Him use us.
So, lean in here. I want to conclude with this: Two brothers had really nice farms side by side. But, they hated each other. I mean they hated each other. And the natural property division was a creek. I mean, they hated each other so much that they'd damn up part of the creek just so that the other one wouldn't be able to get water. You know? It was like a snake through their property. I mean, they just hated each other. One day, one of the brothers was out in the farm area and a guy pulled up in a station wagon. The guy got out of the station wagon and he walked up to this brother and he said, "Listen, man. I've fallen on some hard times. I really need a job. Is there anything you can let me do out here?"
He said, "Man, today is your lucky day. I can't stand my brother. I hate my brother. He lives on the other side of that creek. I want you to build me the biggest fence you can build me. I mean, make it a wall, man. Make it big. I don't want to see him. In fact, you can put it on this side of the creek even though I own half of the creek because I can't stand him. Build me a big ol' fence and separate us, because I hate him."
The guy said, "Okay. Well, I'm going to go to town. I'll be back later."
So, the guy goes to town. He's gone all day. He pulls in in his car, gets out and he's all excited because he knows he's going to walk up and see this beautiful fence. He walks out and, as he walks out, he didn't see a fence. There's this beautiful, I mean beautiful bridge, going over the creek. And he is absolutely irritated. I mean, he's so mad he can't see straight.
So, he walks up to just chew out this handyman and right about as he gets to the handyman, he looks and his brother is walking across the bridge. His brother says, "You're a bigger man than me, putting this bridge here. I've treated you bad, man, and it's time to bury the hatchet. Come here."
And he grabs him and he hugs him. Listen: You and me in the world that we live in today may be almost an unparalleled time. We have an incredible opportunity to be a church that builds a bridge to those so far away from God to come back into the house of God and to find Jesus as Lord and Savior; to make a difference in their life. We have an opportunity to be bridge builders to so many people in the hostile world that we live in. We're called to be peacemakers. Let's be that church. Let's be those people. Let's build bridges. Let it change our life, your life, our church's life, Lakewood Ranch's life and let's make it miserably difficult for anybody to go to hell because these beautiful bridges are going everywhere into town to bring people back to the house of God. Amen?
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You right now in the mighty and wonderful name of Your Son, Jesus. I have two things I want to pray for, God. The first thing I want to pray for is if anybody is in here today that is far away from God or anybody in here that's been living their life for themselves and they're at a place right now and some way, some how, they just feel in their heart they want to move forward with You. Lord, I pray right now at their seat they would reach out to You and realize the everlasting love and grace and mercy that You have for them. Lord, I pray that they would reach out to You and say, "God, I want more of You in my life."
And Lord, as they do that, I pray that when they leave today they would find somebody with a Grace shirt on or a name tag and say, "Hey, I'm praying that prayer. I want to move forward with God. I want God to make a difference in my life. I want that."
I want to pray for those people. Lord, I also pray for those of us that are on this journey of becoming more like Jesus. Lord, I pray that over this week You will really download in our hearts and spirit this idea of maybe embracing conflict in a different way, of learning to be peacemakers, of learning how to really do this thing right and follow Your Word in the way that You've asked us to do it. Prepare our hearts, Lord. Make it fertile ground to hear Your Word so that we can become the people that You've called us to be.
So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us, and I pray that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And Lord, help us to be the church that shines bright for You, for Your glory and for Your honor. We love You for it. In Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him.